City Manager Jeff Moon informed the council on how legislation set to go into effect on July 1 will allow licensed permit holders to bring firearms into some government facilities.
The topic came up for discussion after the council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would make the "unauthorized use or possession of a firearm, explosives or weapons in city buildings property or when conducting city business" causes for disciplinary actions towards city employees.
As the law stands, permit holders will be allowed to carry their handguns into the Chambers at City Center.
Woodstock and other cities have the option to not allow guns in the chambers if they implemented some form of security measures, such as metal detectors. But the council's consensus was not to take any action on the issue at this time.
House Bill 60 will allow licensed gun owners to bring their firearms into bars and some government buildings that don't have security measures. Weapons will continue to be prohibited from courtrooms, and the law also does not apply to shotguns or other "long guns."
It also allows school districts to designate which staff members will be allowed to carry guns and gives religious institutions the leeway to determine if they want to allow firearms in their places of worship.
If the council wanted to ban firearms, Moon said the council could have officers posted at two entrances using hand-held metal detectors to screen those entering the facility.
However, that would possibly require a budget amendment to adjust for the increase police staffing during those hours, the city manager stated.
Moon said there were many "complications" with the law. For example, Elm Street Arts would be prohibited from banning firearms from its productions since they are leasing the chambers from the city.
Woodstock Police Chief Cal Moss added that while the city can ask if a resident has a weapons carry permit, that resident can answer yes, no or flat out refuse to answer — and law enforcement would not be allowed to detain that person to determine if they have a permit.
At any rate, Moss said he and his officers and the agency as a whole will follow the law.
"It’s a challenge either way, quite frankly," he said, adding he's a Second Amendment supporter. "We will carry out our legal requirements under state law and the city code."
Council member Warren Johnson said he would be fine with no screenings and the city carrying on with it standard operating procedure. However, Council member Bob Mueller disagreed. He noted he was opposed to allowing firearms in the chambers during meetings because he did not want to open up the possibility of a shooting.
"It has happened in several cities and I think screening is good," he added.
Council member Tessa Basford said she would defer to Moss to determine what the best the city should take.
"I just don’t have the information to know what the right decision would be," she said.
When it all comes down to it, Moss said the direction would be based upon the "comfort level of the council."
The city manager, who is a member of the National Rifle Association, added he didn't have a problem with a licensed permit holder bringing their weapons to the meetings.
"I'm not worried about that person," he said, referring to whether it would be a safety issue allowing firearms in the facility. "It’s the guy who doesn’t care what the law says. That’s the one who troubles me."
By comparison, the city of Holly Springs will not allow guns in its facility as it meets at the city's municipal court and has security measures in place.
Interim Canton City Manager Glen Cummins said the city will continue to prohibit firearms at Canton City Hall as the building is the same facility that houses its municipal court.
Cherokee County Manager Jerry Cooper said the county already screens for weapons at the entrance to where the county commission meets in Canton and the Tax Commissioner offices and do not plan to impose any additional measures.