Monroe makes decision on council members carrying guns in meetings

Monroe City Council voted 4-2 against giving its members with valid concealed carry permits the option to carry a firearm at meetings or other specific city-owned properties.

Vice Mayor Dan Clark who presided over Tuesday’s meeting in Mayor Robert Routson’s absence had suggested tabling the proposed resolution for another two weeks so that Routson could be in attendance and also provide an opinion he was seeking from Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.

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However, the consensus on council was that they did not want to table the measure any further.

Had the resolution passed, Monroe would have been the first city in Butler County to permit council members to conceal carry firearms. Clark and Councilman Todd Hickman, who originally sought the resolution, were outvoted by the other council members.

Council did hear a presentation by Robert Beglin of USI Insurance Services, which markets firms for the Public Entities Pool of Ohio that provides liability insurance coverage for the city and about 550 other non-school governmental agencies. He said that council members could be covered as a police officer, similar to how liability insurance companies are covering firefighters who want to conceal carry.

Beglin said the base rate would be about $400 a year per council member and would be subject to other additional costs. He said he knows of no non-school public entities that allow council members or the general public to carry concealed weapons at their public meetings.

He also said allowing council members to have concealed firearms could put the city in other liabilities that include:

  • being sued by a taxpayer who holds a valid CCW permit that might feel the city is infringing on their Second Amendment rights are being infringed on because they cannot carry their firearm but a council member can;
  • it could include increase the city's costs of public officials liability as well as overall liability insurance; and
  • an employee could claim that the city has become a hostile workplace and may not attend a council meeting because of fears of firearms.

“One carrier was not sure if they could cover this and three others have not responded,” Beglin said. “It’s such an unknown issue for us.”

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Councilman Keith Funk, who has a CCW permit, said council meetings are like court and there are times that things get tense.

“People need to feel comfortable coming here,” he said. “I would rather increase police presence before council starts packing heat.”

Councilwoman Christina McElfresh, also a CCW permit holder, agreed with an additional police presence and said law enforcement would be better trained in that type of situation.

Councilman Todd Hickman reiterated why the issue was being considered and said that he has been threatened a few times during his time on council as well as having a relative wounded in the 2016 Madison High School shooting. He also said that he has heard of no complaints by residents and none have come to council to oppose the resolution.

“This has to do about having the option (to carry a concealed firearm) if I feel the need,” Hickman said. “That’s the reason for it. Not just here, but outside of council chambers.”

Councilman Jason Frentzel expressed a concern that city employees may refuse to attend a council meeting under these conditions.

In 2017, the city of Wyoming in Hamilton County was the first municipality in southwest Ohio to approve such a policy but ended up scuttling it a month after it was adopted.

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