Government

Johnson County lifts weapons ban in most government buildings

To comply with Iowa law, Johnson County reluctantly lifted its ban on allowing firearms in buildings. It did adopt a res
To comply with Iowa law, Johnson County reluctantly lifted its ban on allowing firearms in buildings. It did adopt a resolution, however, stating firearms are only allowed in county buildings if they are carried in compliance with the Iowa Code. (Gazette file photo)

IOWA CITY — Faced with “air tight” legislation leaving them little by way of options, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Thursday approved a resolution allowing firearms in most county buildings.

“I don’t want guns in here,” said Board Chair Rod Sullivan. “The Legislature did this to us, and now we have to deal with the consequences. They wrote something that’s pretty air tight.”

House File 2502 prevents cities and counties from regulating the possession of lawfully carried firearms or other weapons on their properties. A weapons ban can only remain in place if a building has a secured entrance and armed security. The board has been in limbo on the issue for more than a week with supervisors Janelle Rettig and Royceann Porter supporting a challenge to the new law, but supervisors Lisa Green-Douglass and Sullivan arguing the county had no other option. Supervisor Pat Heiden was not present for last week’s formal meeting, leaving the board deadlocked.

» FACE MASKS: Johnson County mask requirement ‘unenforceable,’ county attorney says

With Heiden at Thursday’s meeting, the board voted 4-1 to adopt a resolution stating firearms are only allowed in county buildings if they are carried in compliance with the Iowa Code. Specifically, anyone carrying a firearm has to have the valid permit to do so and not be in violation of the conditions of that permit. The resolution does not pertain to the courthouse, which has a secured entrance and armed deputies.

“I absolutely think we have no other option but to accept the county attorney’s recommendation,” said Heiden. “If we don’t, it puts us in a difficult situation of being liable for costly attorney fees and court costs.”

The county now joins the Iowa City Council in reluctantly lifting weapons bans in their buildings.

A majority of the board was also against pursing additional security measures for county buildings. Sullivan, comparing it to the costs of securing the Johnson County Courthouse, said there would be “huge” upfront costs and ongoing costs related to paying deputies to staff a secured entrance.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“It’s not where I want to spend our money, frankly,” Sullivan said. “I feel that money can be better directed in a lot of different places.”

Porter, who said she has been the subject of harassment and intimidation during her time as an elected official, said she was upset there was little else the board could do.

“I know people will take advantage of this,” she said. “I know someone will come forward to try to intimidate me. Right now, I’m very pissed off.”

Rettig, who voted against the resolution, said she believes the county should fight HF 2502 on the basis that the county owns its buildings. She questioned how the board could support mandating mask use in public, but allow for firearms in public buildings.

“We either stand for safety or we don’t,” she said. “I couldn’t be more disappointed in Johnson County.”

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.