Mt. Juliet city employees can now carry guns to work and leave them in their vehicles if they have a valid handgun permit.
Over the past several weeks, city commissioners wrestled with the decision to allow all employees to bring their guns to work. Originally, City Commissioner Art Giles drafted an ordinance that would allow the city to comply with the state’s Guns In Trunks law passed last year.
City officials said recent shootings during government meetings prompted the action. The state law allows people to carry their guns onto work property if kept in their vehicles.
At first, commissioners discussed allowing certain upper-level city personnel to carry a gun onto city property, on their person, if they had a legal handgun carry permit. However, top-level officials, such as Public Works Director Marlin Keel, expressed apprehension.
“I just do not feel comfortable with this,” said Keel.
Commissioner Ray Justice said the intent of an amendment he sponsored on the original ordinance was misinterpreted.
“At first we were discussing letting upper management bring guns into the workplace,” said Justice. “I just said if we were going to allow upper management, we should not discriminate and should allow everyone.”
Commissioners changed their minds, and in a 4-1 vote approved on first reading, an ordinance was passed to allow city employees to follow state law and carry a gun to work under the Guns In Trunks law. Workers must have a valid handgun carry permit and must leave their gun in their vehicles while on city property.
“Currently, our policy disallowed employees to bring a gun to work, period,” said Mayor Ed Hagerty. “They would have been disciplined.”
Commissioner Jim Bradshaw voted against the ordinance on first reading.
“I don’t think anyone needs to bring a gun to work,” said Bradshaw. “And, I wonder about liability issues. I’ve asked them to talk with our insurance carrier about this.”
A final reading on the ordinance will take place Monday. Hagerty said the question about liability was related to their earlier decision to allow guns into the workplace.
“But, since we’ve changed things to comply with state law, I don’t think there are any liability issues,” said Hagerty. “I think it is a moot point, but we will hear from the attorney before we take a second vote.”
Justice said he took an oath to uphold city, county and state laws.
“There was a conflict with the city not allowing employees to carry a gun to work and keep it in the car,” said Justice. “Now we have the opportunity to bring the city into compliance with state law.”