Manatee County commissioners to consider concealed carry for employees during working hours

Manatee County commissioners are proposing big changes to the county’s policy, all in the name of making sure employees feel safe at work. Some commissioners are pushing for employees to be able to carry a gun while at work, a change that has others concerned.

The proposed change is all stemming from Commissioner James Satcher after he started the conversation during a meeting back in May. He said he believes all county employees should be able to carry a gun while on the job if they have their concealed carry permit. He said the current policy that doesn’t allow this is not only wrong, but he said it’s also "un-American."

"I don’t believe in having our employees be soft targets," Satcher said. "I want to give the good guys the right to defend themselves, for the employees of Manatee County. I think that’s the right thing to do."

Satcher wants the commission to overturn the current policy and change the rules to give employees peace of mind and to help keep them safe.

But several commissioners have concerns, including Commissioner Reggie Bellamy. He said changing the policy could create potential safety issues, and proposed increasing the presence of deputies to help employees feel more protected.

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Other commissioners voiced that they felt these discussions might be premature based on the fact that Governor Ron DeSantis has announced plans for a constitutional carry law, which would be a form of open carry that doesn’t require a permit under the Second Amendment.

But Commissioner Satcher said he has already thought of all this, adding that employees should have the right to protect themselves.

Back in May, when this discussion first began, commissioners voted to resume talks about the policy change after the county attorney had time to review the legality of the proposal. The county attorney found that currently, 14 other counties in Florida have a similar policy in place. 

The attorney also said that under the Second Amendment, commissioners would be able to impose the policy change, but he also advised that in doing so, it could give way to "additional liabilities and insurance costs."

Moms Demand Action protested outside the county building. Ginger McCallum and more than 40 speakers spoke out against the policy change. 

"We feel it’s important to keep our community safe from gun violence, we feel that guns do not belong in any work place much less a public work place like the county offices," McCallum said. 

Commissioners voted 6-1 to have the administrator bring back a policy change with options within 30 days with input from the Manatee County sheriff and attorney.