New Pal council considers town hall gun policy

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NEW PALESTINE — Town officials are considering allowing employees to bring handguns into the workplace.

The topic was discussed at the most recent council meeting when Bill Niemier, council president, brought up the idea during a look at the current employee handbook. He thinks it’s a good idea as long as the person wanting to bring in a weapon has a permit to carry and passes weapon safety training.

Niemier, who is a lawyer, said he did some research on the issue and found some states prohibit employers from restricting weapons being brought into their workplaces by employees.

Indiana law allows an employee who legally possesses a firearm to keep it in his or her vehicle at work, as long as it is locked in the trunk, kept in the glove compartment of the locked vehicle, or otherwise stored out of plain sight in the locked vehicle.

“I think gun-free zones are targets,” Niemier said. “I think criminals who don’t follow laws or policies look for places that they can go to and use a weapon with the confidence there isn’t going to be any resistance.”

Neimier would like the town’s employee handbook to add a section allowing for the carrying of a handgun, but only with safety and permit conditions. He noted there are just too many situations where officials have seen people with guns attacking unarmed citizens who have to wait until law enforcement arrives.

“I don’t want town hall to be a gun-free target or a place where they can come without resistance,” Niemier said.

Two of the five council members, Brandee Bastin and Chris Lytle, were not present at the meeting, but the three officials in attendance, Niemier, Angie Fahrnow and Clint Bledsoe, all seemed to be in favor of the measure with some stipulations added.

It would take three of five voters on the council to approve the measure, which could be offered as soon as the next council meeting, slated for Sept. 1.

While Fahrnow wasn’t as enthusiastic about the idea as Niemier, she wasn’t opposed to it. She did, however, say she thought it might be a good idea for anyone who wants to carry a weapon into the workplace to go through some type of mental health evaluation.

“I’m cautious,” Fahrnow said. “I think there should be a few more things that would go into behind letting people carry a gun here into the workplace.”

Fahrnow feels the mental health aspect needs to be evaluated because those types of tests are not part of employee applications.

“I feel like that’s a good suggestion,” Niemier said in agreement.

Bob Ehle, chief of police, said all police employees go through psychological evaluations before they are allowed onto the force; having other town employees do the same would probably be a good idea.

Bledsoe supports the idea of allowing employees to carry guns. He doesn’t want to deny anyone their Second Amendment rights and possibly expose the town to any type of lawsuit that might create.

“It’s fine with me,” Bledsoe said.

Clerk-Treasurer Yvonne Jonas, who works daily in the town offices, told the council she’d prefer to work in an environment where nobody carried a gun.

“Sometimes in the workplace, things happen that doesn’t make people happy,” said Jonas, who does not have a vote in the matter. “You don’t want to get to the point where someone gets ticked off and uses that gun.”

Niemier quickly told Jonas if she were in a situation where there was trouble like she described, she might wish she had a gun to protect herself and others. He said state lawmakers have talked seriously about removing the requirement for a permit to carry, but he thinks a permit is important and would want an employee to have one.

Niemier plans to create a policy for the employee handbook on the issue and bring it before the council.

“If it passes, fine, and if it doesn’t that’s fine too,” he said.