Johnson County Board of Supervisors repeals gun ban in public buildings

The board repealed the policy to comply with state law, though supervisors expressed frustration that the state Legislature had taken local control from the county.


Emily Wangen

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors meets on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. The Supervisors discussed budget items for the year.

Caleb McCullough, Summer Editor

Guns are allowed in county buildings in Johnson County for the first time in nine years.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors reluctantly rolled back a 2011 policy prohibiting firearms in public buildings in order to comply with state law on Thursday.

The state legislature in June passed House File 2502, which prohibits cities and counties from banning weapons in public buildings. Keeping the policy would make the county liable to court fees and damages, should a lawsuit be brought against it.

The board passed a resolution which replaces the old policy and allows guns to be carried if in compliance with state law. The resolution passed 4-1 with Supervisor Janelle Rettig voting against it.

Rettig said the county should challenge the state law, saying that county buildings are county property and can’t be superseded by state law.

Supervisor Pat Heiden said challenging the law would likely be unsuccessful.

“It’s a case we’re not likely to win, and I am not willing to use taxpayer dollars knowing that up front,” she said.

The state law allows for guns to be restricted if a building has an armed security checkpoint at the entrance, like at the Johnson County Courthouse. The supervisors have the option to put in similar security at other buildings to allow for stricter rules, however most supervisors were against the measure.

Supervisors said the money required to implement security across the county would be put to better use in social services.

“If we were to spend $300,000 putting equipment into our buildings, I’d rather see that money in affordable housing,” Supervisor Royceann Porter said. “I’d rather see that money used for something else.”

Rettig was the only supervisor who favored armed security at county buildings, though she said it would have been better to fight the law in court.

“We should have fought this legally based on the fact that the state does not own county property, but you guys were unwilling to do that,” she said to the other supervisors. “And now you’re unwilling to protect our staff and the public.”