The Morgan County Commission instituted gun bans in 13 county buildings by designating them as annexes to the courthouse Tuesday.
As annexes, those sites must follow courthouse policies, including not allowing weapons.
“We cannot have people coming in with weapons,” Commission Chairman Ray Long said. “The rules for the courthouse are the same for the annexes. Weapons are the main reason for this change, but we’re not going to post a deputy at the door.”
He said the May 31 shooting at a municipal complex in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that left 12 people dead including the shooter, who was a disgruntled city employee, helped prompt the designations.
“We want to let everybody know they can come to work and be comfortable,” Long said after the commission's Tuesday meeting. “We want everybody to have peace of mind when they come to work. You can’t bring weapons into an annex building.”
He said guns have no place in Morgan County’s offices.
“Before this (vote), people could wear a gun in the senior centers,” he said. “We don’t need that. That’s a place we feed people and let them play games. We don’t need guns in senior centers.”
He said he has no immediate plans to post no guns allowed signs at the annexes.
“I haven’t ordered any signs at this point. We’re not anti-gun,” he said. “But we don’t want our people to feel threatened. At the animal shelter, we don’t want somebody coming in mad with a gun because somebody got their dog. We’re trying to be proactive.”
A spokesman for state Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday that Morgan County is within the law by having the newly designated sites follow courthouse policies.
The office cited Alabama Code Title 13A: “In addition to any other place limited or prohibited by state or federal law, a person, including a person with a permit issued, may not knowingly possess or carry a firearm in any of the following places (including courthouse annexes) without the express permission of a person or entity with authority over the premises."
Spokesman Mike Lewis said the law does not require the county to provide the same security measures that are in place at the courthouse.
“That’s the law,” he said.
In 2016, a local gun advocacy group, Lawrence County 2nd Amendment, contacted Long and successfully got signs banning guns removed from the Morgan County-Decatur Farmers Market and from Celebration Arena in Priceville.
“It’s folks like (them) who actually get out and notice these things and who bring these issues to our attention so we can get them corrected,” Long said at the time. “Anywhere on county property the signs are not supposed to be, we’ll take them down because we want to follow the law."
In 2013, lawmakers made several changes and clarifications to the state’s gun laws. The gun law states that carrying a visible, holstered pistol in a public place is not disorderly conduct. The law bans guns in courthouses, law enforcement offices and facilities that house people with mental disorders. Guns can be banned at other public places only if security guards are present and entrance is limited with physical barriers.
Efforts to reach a representative of Lawrence County 2nd Amendment were unsuccessful.
The buildings designated as annexes are the Morgan County Archives, Parks and Recreation, Engineering, Animal Control and Environmental Services offices, the district 1, 2 and 3 shops and senior center sites at Falkville, Neel, Union Hill, Lacey’s Spring and Somerville.
Long said the District 4 office was designated as a courthouse annex several years ago because it houses a tag and license office where more money might be in the office.
District 4 Commissioner Greg Abercrombie made the motion and District 2 Commissioner Randy Vest seconded the motion. District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark and District 3 Commissioner Don Stisher each voted to approve the resolution designating the buildings as courthouse annexes.