The Woodstock City Council began considering its options at its meeting Monday on whether or not to allow guns into government buildings, such as the one where council meetings are held. They also discussed whether to use money and resources to screen anyone who enters the building.
The Safe Carry Protection Act, which becomes law July 1, makes it legal for licensed gun carriers to take their weapons into government buildings not screened for guns.
City Manager Jeff Moon explained to the council members the law presents some challenges for local governments.
“You run into potential complications, the way this law was written, every way you turn,” Moon said. “I understand what they were trying to do. The problem is it got rushed.”
To complicate Woodstock’s decision, if the council decides to screen for guns at the government building where the council meetings are held, the entire building would be screened, including the area used for the Elm Street Cultural Arts events and activities.
Moon explained if council members decided they wanted to screen for guns, the city would have to staff the two entrances to the building, which houses the Chambers at City Center and the Elm Street Arts center, with security to either conduct visual screening or to man metal detectors.
The city would have to purchase and install the detectors if the council decided to screen for guns.
Moon said long guns such as shotguns and rifles would still be prohibited in public buildings, regardless of whether or not the building is screened. Handguns are under consideration for screening, Moon explained.
Councilman Warren Johnson said he would be comfortable not screening for guns in the meetings.
“I can assure you, anyone with bad intent is not going to change their mind because of a sign,” Johnson said, adding the reason it hasn’t been a problem in the past wasn’t because there was an ordinance prohibiting weapons at meetings.
Moon agreed with Johnson, saying if a person has ill intent, screening probably won’t stop them.
Councilman Bob Mueller and Tessa Basford disagreed. They wanted more information about possible options and costs associated with screenings, as well as information on risk and best practices.
Woodstock Police Chief Calvin Moss said at the end of the day, how the council decides to move forward at its next meeting depends on their comfort level with guns at meetings.
“I feel very strongly in the Constitution and the Second Amendment and the personal right to bear arms,” Moss said. “That said, there’s a certain comfort level knowing that weapons were not allowed in government buildings and courthouses, where bad things have happened.”
Moss said he would follow state law and the council’s future decisions.
The June 23 meeting of the mayor and city council was cancelled. The next meeting is scheduled for July 10 at 7 p.m., at The Chambers at City Center in downtown Woodstock, at 8534 Main St.