BROOKSVILLE (FOX 13) - Hernando County employees are now allowed to carry guns with them to work if they have a concealed carry permit.
Commissioners unanimously approved the policy change Tuesday, joining a handful of other Florida counties that have done the same.
Commissioner Steve Champion was the driving force behind the effort to strike the old policy banning weapons on the job. He said his motivation was simple: give county employees the same constitutional rights as regular citizens.
"Growing up as a kid, I was involved in firearms, et cetera," Champion said. "It's a way of life around this county in a rural area. We all have guns for the most part."
Following a brief discussion and citizen comments, the policy change passed 4-0.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said Commissioner Jeff Holcomb.
Though he owns American Gun and Pawn in Brooksville, Champion said this isn't about advocating for guns, but rather, about upholding the Constitution.
"We are not going to ask you if you have a weapon. We are not going to tell you to carry a weapon," Champion said. "We are getting out of the way. We shouldn't have policy that's over and beyond what the state law is."
A few Florida counties have already enacted similar policies, including Okaloosa, Lake, and Polk. By and large, the measure has gotten support from Hernando County citizens.
"We are restoring a Constitutional right, actually, it's a natural right," one woman told the Commission.
"I support the second amendment 100 percent," another man said.
Cherie Miller, however, said the change strikes her as a resolution without a problem.
"I am not hearing that our county employees are in danger," Miller said. "In fact, I find our community to be very peaceful. You are asking me to assume that a county employee that shows up on my private property with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
Champion said, "It is her right as a property owner to deny anyone access to her property. That A/C technician that comes, how do you know they don't have a weapon? They're allowed to. How do you know any of the vendors that come on your property? I guarantee they do."
There are places county employees can't carry, just like any other citizen. That includes the County Government Center, schools, post offices, and the courthouse
"At least they won't get fired and lose their livelihood if they decided, well I'm a meter reader, I'm out working maybe in a rural area," Champion said. "And there's other things to protect yourself from, besides people. Animals, there's a lot of dangerous animals out there. There may need to use a weapon for that."
Champion stressed responsibility to workers who choose to carry concealed weapons. He said it's up to them to study Florida law and know exactly where they can and can not legally carry.
"If you don't know the law, don't carry," Champion said.