Half million? – Cities say gun bill is costly

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt June 4, 2014
Illustration. Wikimedia Commons.

Illustration. Wikimedia Commons.

This story has been updated. 

During the June 2 City Commission meeting Assistant City Manager Andrea Arnold said Decatur taxpayers may have to spend $500,000 securing government buildings because of the new “Guns everywhere” law.

The city of Atlanta’s finance department reports that the gun bill might cost city taxpayers money, too. Jerry Henry, executive director of the gun rights advocacy group Georgia Carry, said there is nothing in the law that requires cities to spend money on additional security.

“That will only be done at the will of the local ‘leaders’ because they do not trust law-abiding citizens to exercise their constitutional rights,” Henry said.

Arnold said the $500,000 estimate is strictly “back of the napkin.” It’s not in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal that the City Commission is studying.

“It depends on if the city takes any action to address the gun law,” Arnold explained after the June 2 meeting.  “… Look at the law and see what it says in terms of what the city county governments’ options are if you’re going to have any kind of control over weapons entering a public building or a public meeting. The law lays out what you can and can’t do.”

Gov. Nathan Deal recently signed House Bill 60, aka Guns Everywhere, and it was supported by his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Jason Carter. It expands the places where Georgians can legally carry guns. The more controversial provisions allow gun owners to carry into churches and bars unless property owners prohibit it.

City officials in Atlanta and Decatur said the bill will have implications for all cities in Georgia.

Atlanta Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard said he doesn’t have an estimate about what the city will have to spend securing its buildings because of the law.

When asked how the law might affect cities, he quoted the following section of HB 60:

206 (e) (1) A license holder shall be authorized to carry a weapon in a government building
207 when the government building is open for business and where ingress into such building
208 is not restricted or screened by security personnel. A license holder who enters or attempts
209 to enter a government building carrying a weapon where ingress is restricted or screened
210 by security personnel shall be guilty of a misdemeanor if at least one member of such
211 security personnel is certified as a peace officer pursuant to Chapter 8 of Title 35; provided,
212 however, that a license holder who immediately exits such building or immediately leaves
213 such location upon notification of his or her failure to clear security due to the carrying of
214 a weapon shall not be guilty of violating this subsection or paragraph (1) of subsection (b)
215 of this Code section. A person who is not a license holder and who attempts to enter a
216 government building carrying a weapon shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

“If a city wants to have a sterile facility they will have to have security screening,” Beard said. “Screening comes at a cost.”

City Manager Peggy Merriss said there are several buildings the city would need to secure under the new law, which goes into effect July 1.

“Basically, if the City wants to prohibit the possession of weapons (guns, knives, nunchucks, etc.) in public facilities we will have to purchase screening equipment for each building and there has to be staff at the screening device,” Merriss said via email.  “We would likely be looking at City Hall, Decatur Recreation Center, Ebster Recreation Center and Public Works. When you add the number of hours each of these facilities are open and operating (including hours for public meetings at City Hall), the staffing requirements start adding up, particularly if we have to have a sworn officer as the screener, which has been suggested by some interpretations of HB 60.”

Avondale Estates City Manager Clai Brown did not return messages seeking comment about what the gun bill might cost taxpayers there. Mayor Ed Rieker recently announced that the city staff will not be responding to questions from Decaturish because of the coverage of an April 12 fire that claimed the lives of two residents. However, a member of the city’s police department this week provided comment for a story about  crime trends during the summer.

Henry said nothing should change for governments as a result of the law, saying if they didn’t need security before, they won’t need it now.

“These local governments do not want to allow law-abiding citizens the right to protect themselves and their families in a facility that is not protected by government,” he said. “This tells me a few things about how the local governments feel about the people they are sworn to protect.”

Henry encouraged taxpayers in Atlanta and Georgia to speak out against spending money on additional security measures, because they aren’t needed.

“I would hope the citizens of each municipality would attend all the hearings their local governments hold when they decide to waste more tax dollars,” he said. “This is the only way for the law-abiding citizens to be able to protect themselves and eliminate more government waste.”

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

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  • vidalia53

    $500 K is a small price to pay to be assured of safe, public spaces such as our commission meetings, hearings, places of recreation and any other facility within our city. If need be, I’m certain the citizens of Decatur would be happy to “pony up” from our own pockets if need be. Send a message to the “Guns Everywhere” crowd we are not interested in their agenda.

    • Keith F

      You seem to be certain about anumber of things that are anything but certain. First, a half million is a big price, and second, that you think it “assures” safety in these place is a dangerous and naive belief in my eyes. What’s more, I for one am certainly not happy to “pony” up for something that would accomplish nothing.

      The fact that these places have not been monitored previously means that a criminal was always capable of carrying a gun into all of these venues. In that respect, the only thing that has changed is that now law-abiding people can do the same thing as the criminals. Sounds right to me, and make no mistake that your “guns everywhere crowd” spans political parties and may not be as defined as you think they are.

      • vidalia53

        Have a chat with our Mayor…..

        • RamRoddoc

          Who does he work for? Perhaps we should ask them….

    • John Corry

      I don’t see how anything has changed…why all of a sudden is the assurance of safe, public spaces worth $500K+ when 2 months ago is was a non-issue?

      • vidalia53

        Plenty has changed…go chat with our Mayor.

        • Jeff Lebowsky

          Vidalia you are not properly educated on the matter. First of all its not a “Guns Everywhere” law. This is a title that the gun haters have given it so that uninformed people like you get angry. First of all, this law only addresses issues pertaining to those who have permits to carry, such as myself. We have federal background checks and we are finger printed. This l aw actually gives places such as churches a grounded basis to NOT allow guns by default. We can’t just carry a gun into a church, but it give the church, for example, the right to allow or not allow.

          You see the one most important thing that gun haters never can seem to understand is that for all of the laws that they continue to try to push to prevent gun violence, its the legal carriers that suffer. CRIMINALS DO NOT CARE ABOUT GUN LAWS. That is the point and that is what makes their act criminal. The people you see in the news responsible for the violent gun shootings ARE NOT THE LAW ABIDING, PERMITTED GUN CARRIERS. In fact I challenge you to find a case where a legal gun carrier caused the violence witnessed in Colorado or Sandy Hook.

          The Decatur police shouldn’t speak as if HB 60 has created the wild west for Decatur. Nor should they leverage it as a reason more more funding.

  • Jim

    So they’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure these buildings from people who have been through background checks, FBI/GBI fingerprinting and have no criminal history. So, before now, how were these buildings secured against criminal-felons who illegally carried guns? Are criminal-felons more trustworthy around guns than law abiding citizens with carry licenses? Because before HB60, there was no movement to secure these buildings even though felons could walk right in and start shooting people.

  • Drew

    Actually the law does not allow guns in places of worship unless that place of worship expressly allows it. It is still illegal to bring your guns to church unless your church tells you otherwise.

  • CommonSenseGuy

    Practically all gun crime comes from criminals who do not have a license to carry or permit to own. Either the city has never cared to protect the citizens against criminals who carry guns or they are blowing $500k of your tax dollars because they think that law-abiding citizens are all of a sudden going to start committing gun-induced crimes.
    Please explain the lefty-logic here….

    • RamRoddoc

      The revocation rate of those states who require a permit to carry is less than 1%. Of that most are for non-violent offenses. Some states do not require a permit for fee to carry in accordance with the constitution. The honest armed citizens are not a liability to a free state. They are an asset, a force multiplier that all good people benefit from even if they deny it.
      We need leaders with a measure of critical thinking skills. Their responses will determine who has embraced the oath and comprehends just what a “right” honestly is or not.

  • Phil Evans

    Do armed criminals intent on harming people obey signs or laws? If not, then why no paranoia about armed criminals entering government buildings without screening before HB 60?

    Is it just because the real paranoia is about licensed citizens being able to carry in government buildings? You know, the ones that commit the bulk of crime with guns (insert sarcasm here). Jerry Henry of Georgia Carry is right, “if they didn’t need security before, they won’t need it now.”

    The anti-self-defense crowd already passes by several people each week at stores, parks, malls, restaurants, etc, who are licensed to carry a firearm, with not a care in the world. Why all of a sudden would they be afraid to be around them in government buildings? Oh, I know – talk with the Mayor. LOL

    The reason why we don’t have more armed criminal attacks than we do is because criminals know some people are armed, and they don’t want to get shot.

    The irony is that those who are fearful of lawful gun carriers are benefiting from those they vilify and sterotype. In other words, they are bigots. When one of these bigoted hypocrits gets their own crime scare, then they come over to our side and wonder why they didn’t do so sooner.

  • RamRoddoc

    The single issue of contention of this whole ordeal is; prior to this bill, which only allows “permitted weapons” carriers, who legally qualify, pass the scrutiny of a background check and pay a poll tax/fee to exercise a “right”-often in excess of $100, is that those bleating the loudest, who haven’t taken any specific security measures, that when faced with the legal citizen-legal to carry NOW MUST do something to stop them.

    Criminals and the insane did not warrant the same measure of concern…….. Do they even comprehend how this reflects upon them and their leadership?

    The best solution to this and logical response is: if economically feasible, install screening measures at entrance and exit points and ALLOW permitted legal weapons carriers to carry within these secure areas. It serves the “public’s” best interest rather than the government, supposedly of the people for the people.

    The goal should be to keep criminals and the insane in check, not the honest public.

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