County hears concealed weapons ordinance

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Law is housekeeping measure placing prohibition on their possession in county government buildings

By Marty Finley

Hardin Fiscal Court heard the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday tightening its regulations on the possession of concealed weapons in county government buildings.

All areas where the possession or carrying of concealed weapons is prohibited or limited shall be noted with signs at the entrance of the restricted area, according to the proposed ordinance.

Hardin County Attorney Jennifer Oldham said the county already prohibits the possession of concealed weapons in the majority of government buildings so the law a housekeeping measure to make sure the county is doing the right thing legally by having an ordinance on the books. For instance, Oldham’s office has a prohibition on concealed weapons, she said.

Judge-Executive Harry Berry said the county pursued the ordinance after the Kentucky Association of Counties alerted it of changes in the law regarding concealed weapons. This ensures the county has no regulations on the books in conflict with state law, he said.

Oldhamsaid the county does not plan to implement any heightened security or inspection measures inside county government buildings in combination with the new ordinance. Those found in violation of the ordinance if adopted may be denied access to a building or asked to leave. County employees found in violation of the ordinance may be disciplined.

A Hardin County government building is defined as a building or any of a building owned, leased occupied or controlled by Hardin County Government or one of its agencies.

This “expressly includes” all agencies and buildings owned and operated by Hardin Memorial Health, according to the ordinance.

On Aug. 7, An unidentified patient shot and killed himself at Hardin Memorial Hospital in the hospital’s intensive care unit on the second floor, which was temporarily locked down while staff assessed the situation.

A code blue, an alert that immediate medical attention and possible resuscitation is needed, quickly was followed by a code silver, an alert for a shooting. Michelle Murphy, director of marketing and public relations at HMH, told The News-Enterprise at the time that the staff had been training on proper protocol to handle a shooting much like it trains to respond to a tornado or earthquake.

Dennis Johnson, president and CEO of HMH, said the state’s right-to-carry laws include an exemption for hospitals and HMH has posted signs alerting visitors of a ban on concealed weapons.

But Johnson said he supported the county’s decision to enact the ordinance.

“I think it’s a very good piece of legislation,” he said.

The ordinance does not apply to “any existing or future building used for public housing by private persons, highway rest areas, firing ranges or private dwellings owned, leased or controlled by Hardin County Government,” according to the ordinance.

The ordinance also does not prohibit those who are otherwise permitted to carry a concealed weapon into a government building from carrying one into a Hardin County Government building. This exemption includes Commonwealth’s attorneys, county attorneys, judges and law enforcement officials, according to Kentucky Revised Statutes.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.