Survey: Clark County workers oppose guns in workplace

Commissioners still support allowing weapons at work

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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A survey of Clark County employees shows a majority opposes loosening gun restrictions inside certain public buildings, but that hasn't deterred commissioners from discussing a new, less-restrictive gun policy.

"I think they're wrong," Commissioner Tom Mielke said Wednesday in response to the survey.

He, along with Commissioner David Madore, said the public perception of the proposal — particularly among county employees — is that it would create a "free for all."

They said if the county decided to permit employees to carry concealed weapons, it would set regulations to ensure workplace safety. Those could include requirements for conceal-carry permit holders to take gun safety classes, an idea Commissioner Steve Stuart also supported.

Axel Swanson, the county's senior policy analyst, has been compiling employee responses to the policy proposal. Universally, he said, employees don't like the idea as it stands.

Despite the opposition, all three commissioners vowed to adopt a policy that would be equitable and safe. Even under a new gun policy, they said, employees would not be able to brandish their firearms at work.

"I am concerned about brandishing (firearms)," Mielke said. "I don't want it to go there. I don't want to go down this avenue of do's and don'ts."

For weeks, commissioners have been discussing whether to rewrite the county's workplace violence policy to allow employees with concealed-carry permits to bring their weapons to work.

County commissioners expressed surprise last month when they discovered there were weapons restrictions placed on employees. There are no restrictions placed on elected officials or the general public. Case law allows the county to ban employees from carrying weapons at work.

That discovery followed a workplace shooting at the Center for Community Health, in an office operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

And last week, county commissioners directed department heads not to reprimand employees who bring weapons to work, as long as they have a concealed weapon permit.

Instances of employees bring weapons to work are seemingly few and far between, however.

During his 13 years with the county, County Administrator Mark McCauley said he's heard of one employee who was reprimanded for bringing a gun to work.

The county plans to continue taking feedback from county employees, even as it continues to investigate how, or whether, to implement a concealed weapons policy for county employees.

Stuart, who has a conceal-carry permit, said he supported the Second Amendment and people's right to carry weapons into public facilities, but there was cause for pause on drafting a new policy.

The reason, he said, is because a revised gun policy would impact the workplace environment.

"I want our employees to have a happy, healthy and safe workplace," he said.