Lebanon close to permitting concealed weapons at council meetings

Lebanon City Councilman Joe Shafer points at one of the signs prohibiting the carrying of a firearm into city hall. Shafer and other council members have directed the law director to draft legislation to permit them to conceal-carry during meetings. STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD
Lebanon City Councilman Joe Shafer points at one of the signs prohibiting the carrying of a firearm into city hall. Shafer and other council members have directed the law director to draft legislation to permit them to conceal-carry during meetings. STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD

Despite their lawyer’s advice, Lebanon City Council is ready — without adding insurance coverage — to change local law to permit holders of conceal-carry permits to bring their guns to council meetings.

The change will make the allowance both for council members and the public.

On Tuesday, the council is scheduled to discuss a proposed ordinance and striking the “ban on weapons and items resembling weapons” from their rules.

They could vote as soon as the next week to make the change, becoming perhaps only the second Ohio city to take this step.

A quote from the city’s insurance consultant put the annual price of additional insurance for “deadly weapons protection” at $28,000.

If the city was named in a lawsuit related to concealed weapons in the city building — where they are otherwise prohibited — “$28,000 would begin to look pretty cheap,” Yurick said during a Feb. 6 council work session.

While suggesting the insurance would be wise from a risk-management standpoint, Yurick also acknowledged it was unknown how such legal action would come out.

“There’s literally zero law on this in Ohio,” Yurick said.

Currently signs outside the Lebanon city building, housing administrative and municipal court, prohibit guns and other weapon, in keeping with Ohio law. The courtroom is used for court sessions and most city council meetings.

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The plan is to alter the signs to indicate those with conceal-carry permits can bring their guns to meetings, but not at any other time the building is open.

Yurick said he would base the city ordinance on one already passed in Shelby, a small city northwest of Mansfield, in Richland County. Pending Lebanon City Council action, Shelby is apparently the only city to have opened up council meetings to those with conceal-carry permits.

The council also rejected scheduling a police officer or security for the meeting, in part to avoid added cost and in part out of conviction they could handle it themselves.

Assigning a police officer, who would be paid overtime, would cost an estimated $7,500, according to staff estimates.

Yurick also acknowledged the policy wouldn’t cover every potential liability created by a council member or someone in the audience at a meeting.

“It may come in handy,” said Yurick, formerly a partner in a large law firm. “I don’t know how much it is going to come in handy.”

Five of seven council members have indicated support for the changes.

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Mayor Amy Brewer has been practically silent during the hours of discussion. She did direct Yurick to draw up the necessary changes, noting the apparent majority.

Krista Wyatt is the only council member to express opposition.

She expressed concern this would enable irresponsible gun owners who think themselves “lone rangers.” Instead, she suggested Police Chief Jeff Mitchell or an officer be assigned, as is done in communities around the state.

Wyatt also suggested the change would be unfair, since it wouldn’t include other city workers during hours when concealed weapons would still be prohibited.

“It’s not selfish to want to protect yourself,” said Councilwoman Wendy Monroe.

Monroe, owner of a gun shop outside town, said the self-insured city had sufficient coverage.

Councilman Adam Mathews, also a lawyer, said he thought the city should be covered under immunity from lawsuits provided to local governments. Mathews called for clear signs explaining the changes.

Councilman Joe Shafer, who proposed the changes, said they would be “extending our rights back to ourselves.”

Vice Mayor Mark Messer offered to sponsor the legislation necessary to make the change a reality, in light of the potential under state law.

“We should take advantage of that. We’re not Texas — yet,” Messer said.

RELATED: Lebanon council wants guns permitted at meetings for security

Lebanon Council Work Session

7 p.m., Tuesday

50 S. Broadway, Lebanon

For more information, call 513-933-7200

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