Wednesday, April 26th, 2017
Handgun license holders can take guns into jail lobby
By William Kincaid
CELINA - Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey is the first elected county official to request and receive permission to allow concealed handgun license holders to carry their weapons inside his building.
Grey petitioned county commissioners Jerry Laffin, Rick Muhlenkamp and Greg Homan - all Republicans - and last week, they unanimously approved a resolution allowing the request.
However, permitted people may carry the guns only within the lobby of the jail located along state Route 29 west of Celina. They also must immediately notify jail personnel that they're carrying a gun.
Grey sought to open the lobby to concealed-carry holders and their weapons out of security concerns, he told the newspaper.
Under a new state law that took effect last month, people are allowed to store their firearms in vehicles parked in county-owned parking lots, administrative clerk Kim Everman pointed out to the newspaper.
"Before this law passed, (people) couldn't even put (their guns in their cars) in the parking lots," she said. "Now he can't control them having it in the parking lot."
Grey told the newspaper he would rather see people coming to the jail to renew their concealed handgun license take their guns inside with them than leave them behind in their vehicles - and possibly end up in the hands of a criminal in the remote chance that an inmate escaped the facility.
"Concealed handgun license holders must enter the lobby of the adult detention facility to renew their permits; Sheriff Grey believes that it is better to allow the licensee to carry his/her firearm in the lobby area as to leave it unattended in the licensee's vehicle," county commissioners' resolution states.
Everman said the prosecutor's office reviewed the request ahead of the commissioners' vote.
"Signs shall be posted notifying licensee of his/her right to carry in the LOBBY AREA ONLY as well as his/her obligation to promptly notify law enforcement officer when carrying the handgun," the resolution states.
Under state Senate Bill 199, which was signed by Gov. John Kasich and took effect last month, governing bodies can move to allow for permitted licensees to carry concealed handguns within certain government buildings.
Governing bodies with authority over courthouses, however, are not permitted to allow concealed handguns within the buildings.
"Prosecuting attorney's office (is) already considered law enforcement so they're able to carry if they want to," Everman said.
As the county houses several offices within the courthouse, the only other buildings where commissioners could allow concealed handguns are the Mercer County Central Services Building and the EMS/EMA office on Riley Street.
No other officials have asked commissioners to permit concealed handguns inside their offices, according to Laffin.
Laffin said he would have to know the reason behind any other request before deciding.
In Mercer County, the sheriff's department issued 645 new licenses and 135 renewals in 2016. In 2015, the department had issued 331 new permits and renewed 188, according to Grey.