No guns — or signs — allowed

Register Reporter

Register/Anne Kazmierczak
County commissioners, from left, Dick Works, Gary McIntosh and Rob Francis listen Tuesday as Allen County Sheriff Tom Williams expresses his belief that currently posted no concealed carry signs should remain at courthouse entrances. A majority of the commissioners opted to remove the signs.

No guns — or weapons of any kind, for that matter — will be allowed in the Allen County Courthouse. Just don’t expect a sign to tell you so.
County commissioners Tuesday voted to prohibit concealed carry weapons in the courthouse, but removed a provision allowing signage to explain that rule.
Commissioner Rob Francis, who wrote the text of the motion that passed, said he was trying to strike a compromise.
“You’re going to have to explain that,” responded Commissioner Dick Works. “You’re going to take the signs down, but it is still illegal. People will not be warned.”
“Those who are trained to carry concealed (weapons) are told they are not allowed to carry in the courthouse,” Francis replied.
Sheriff Tom Williams wasn’t sure that was enough.
“I like the signs,” he said. “You’ll find no one in this county — or maybe the state — who is a bigger supporter of the Second Amendment than I am, but I believe we should be able to congregate as citizens without” concealed carry weapons, he said. “I think the signs serve a notice to anybody that certain things are not permitted in the courthouse.”
The sheriff asked Francis if he had discussed the issue with “every office in the courthouse.”
“I have,” Francis replied. The result? “Most were against concealed carry.”
But, Francis said, “With the results of the hearing (last week) and what I’ve heard in e-mail and phone and person, it is clear there are two sides to this issue.” Francis said as “the swing vote” he had spent the weekend doing “a lot of thinking and praying about this.
“It is obvious we have a security issue here,” he said.
“The rest of the motion is to direct your department to find funding to secure the courthouse,” Francis told the sheriff.
“Sure, I’ll come to you guys and ask for funding,” Williams quipped.
Discussed were the possibility of closing off all but one entrance to the building. That entrance, for mobility reasons, would have to be the one closest to the elevator, said County Clerk Sherrie Riebel.
Francis and Commissioner Gary McIntosh both mentioned other courthouses in the state that get by with one entrance, or have metal detectors at their doors. And, they said, they do not have no guns signs posted at their doors.
“I think the issue is not the signs but securing the courthouse,” Francis said of his motion.
While Francis’ measure removed no guns signs from entrances to the courthouse, it strengthens signage at entries to the jail and courtrooms. Those signs will now say “no weapons of any kind” are allowed. “A knife is just as dangerous as a firearm,” Francis said.
McIntosh said he felt the signs imposed a false sense of security, anyway.
“I would rather have something be secure than pretend it’s secure.”
Alan Weber, county counselor, reminded the men that “Guns have been prohibited in the courthouse for 100 years.” But, he said, without posting signs regarding concealed carry, “I think you’re creating a legal limbo.”
“If you remove the signs, I’m not sure how you prosecute under no concealed carry,” Williams said.
“You do it under the no weapons in the courthouse rule,” Francis suggested.
Francis insisted that as a non-gun owner, he had no stake in the issue. But Works contended that because both Francis and McIntosh “pushed for this hearing, I think to say you were neutral is incorrect. You said you were trying to placate people — who were you trying to placate?”
“At least 30” people that came to talk with him, Francis answered.
“What’s such a big deal about the signs?” Francis asked. “There are many times I’m out on the road doing more than 65 miles per hour,” he said. “That sign doesn’t reach in and hit the break.”
By eliminating the signs but disallowing all carry of any weapons in the courthouse, Francis said, “I’m trying to put this thing to bed. We’ve got budgeting coming up.”
The motion passed 2-1, with Works opposed.