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Newton County, Ark. leaders approve firearms for employees while at work

Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 5:37 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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JASPER, Ark. (KY3) - The Newton County Quorum Court, by unanimous vote, will allow county employees to carry their concealed firearms while on the job.

The quorum court felt it is essential for each county employee to be able to defend themselves or others when the need arises. As long as the employee has a valid concealed carry permit, they can carry their gun.

A now-famous drive-by shooting rattled the Newton County Courthouse in 1949. While nothing similar has happened since it is one reason county justices aren’t taking any chances.

”As you know, I know, and everyone else knows, we live in a different world than what we grew up in, and that’s a big issue anymore,” said Donnie Davis, the Newton County Circuit Clerk. “You just never know what to expect. Newton County became available for funding through a $20,000 grant for courthouse security, and this ordinance is a part of that grant.”

At this month’s meeting, the quorum court approved an ordinance to allow county employees to carry firearms. The regulation includes bailiff body cameras, new security breakthroughs, and metal detector wands. Most notably, the courthouse doesn’t have daily security. It will be self-secured.

”We’ve had occasions here where people have been irate, especially in the domestics, see we do the circuit side of it too,” Davis explained.

”I think anybody in a public office nowadays is in danger, and they need to be able to protect themselves,” said Sharon Robinson, a longtime Arkansas resident. “Safety is extremely important, and so are our second amendment rights. We don’t need to sacrifice either of those for any reason.”

This type of ordinance is not uncommon. In Boone County, some road supervisors carry concealed weapons.

”As long as I’ve got a copy of their concealed carry on file, I’ll allow them to carry,” said Judge Robert Hathaway of Boone County. “Hopefully, they’ll never have to. We’ve had a couple of instances out on the road where we’ve had to call the sheriff out on the road. But I don’t want to take a chance with their lives so they can go home to their families.”

But for different communities, the reason is the same: safety and security.

”I think it’s better to have this and not need it than have to do something and not have coverage for the employees,” said Davis.

The county is still figuring out how to appropriate the funds for other security measures. The concealed carry ordinance has gone into effect. Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler says he supplies advanced firearm training for any county employees who have a conceal and carry license.

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