Since recent legislation pertaining to guns in public places was implemented this summer, the county has been trying to decide if certain county employees should be armed.
At a recent work session, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners had their most recent discussion on arming code enforcement officers and park rangers. This was the latest discussion in a debate that started with the implementation of Georgia House Bill 60, which allows carrying guns in churches, bars and government buildings.
The debate has made some concerned that park rangers and code enforcement officers could be put in risk without protection.
“I’m scared to death that they’re going to walk up on something,” said Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills. “We’re going to put them in a very dangerous situation.”
Like Mills, Commissioner Todd Levent was concerned that the divisions were unable to protect themselves in hazardous circumstances, especially since they wear badges.
“History will show around the country where people wearing badges that weren’t even law enforcement lost their lives because they were mistaken for an officer in the middle of a robbery,” Levent said.
“To leave them in that position, I think, is a little bit of a liability we’re putting them in that we shouldn’t be putting them in.”
While most of the discussion centered on park rangers since it is legal to carry guns in Georgia Parks, the discussion also shifted to code enforcement officials.
“Code enforcement could walk up to a house that is a meth house,” Commissioner Pete Amos said. “Somebody smells something burning and they go up there and someone starts shooting.”
County Manager Doug Derrer agreed with Amos, and said many times code enforcement officers may not know what they’re responding to.
“Typically code enforcement officers aren’t necessarily invited into a home or to a location,” Derrer said. “Whereas the sherriff’s [office] knows in advance they’re going to a call where there may be an issue, code enforcement officers just don’t know that.”
Commissioner Jim Boff said he was unsure if more departments need to carry weapons, and said he would need to be convinced before voting on something.
“Unless this is more tightly tied to House Bill 60, if this is entirely a reaction to that meaning that completely unknown people can have stuff in the park, and you can’t even ask if they’re carrying or legally permitted,” Boff said. “Unless the whole impetus of this is about that particular law, I can’t see any reason to do that.”
No action was taken at the work session, and the issue will be revisited after gathering more information.