MARIETTA - The notices posted on the doors of the Washington County Courthouse are clear, reading "No Concealed Weapons Allowed."
However, walking around the courthouse, in the presence of armed deputies and bailiffs, it quickly becomes evident that the rule does not apply to everyone.
"Police officers, law enforcement, they do not have to check their guns," Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said.
Photo by Jasmine Rogers
Washington County Common Pleas Court Bailiff Don Wilson is one of a handful of those allowed to carry a firearm inside the courthouse.
The exemptions recently came into question when a resident raised a complaint that county Commissioner Steve Weber sometimes carried a gun inside the courthouse.
"I have a big problem with him carrying a gun," said retired deputy sheriff Jack Brum.
Until recently, Weber was also an auxiliary deputy for the sheriff's office, a title that would have allowed him to carry a gun in the court. At a county commission meeting on Sept. 13, Brum questioned the ethics of that appointment.
Law Enforcement Officer's Safety Act
Passed by Congress in 2004.
Gives "qualified" current and retired law enforcement officers the right to supersede state and local laws in regard to the concealed carry of a gun.
Retired officers must have a concealed carry permit and pass a once yearly qualification exam.
Allows even off-duty and retired officers to carry guns in places such as courthouses, schools, businesses that would otherwise prohibit the carry, and all but three national parks.
"This is unethical. The county commissioners' office is a budgeting authority," said Brum, pointing out the commission sets the budget for the sheriff's office.
Weber said he had not known of the Ohio Attorney General's opinion that said county officials should not hold auxiliary deputy positions.
"I had never sat down and read through all the Attorney General rules. We never knew, but as soon as I was told, I called and said I'm resigning," said Weber.
Even without his auxiliary deputy status, Weber said his concealed carry permit gives him more allowances than it would an average civilian. Weber is a retired Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper and under the Law Enforcement Officer's Safety Act, or LEOSA, Weber can carry a gun most places without needing permission.
Enacted by the United States Congress in 2004, LEOSA gives both current and retired "qualified law enforcement officers" the ability to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of any state or local law, with a few exceptions. Aside from retired and current peace officers and federal law enforcement officers, no one else is exempt from no carry zones.
The rules and exceptions of LEOSA are lengthy, but the law essentially allows current and retired law enforcement officers who carry the certification to carry a gun in places that civilians with concealed carry permits cannot.
According to Mincks, this includes county, state and local facilities, such as Marietta Municipal Court or the Washington County Courthouse. It also allows current officers and retired LEOSA certified officers to carry a gun inside of schools. It does not include federal facilities, such as Public Debt, said Mincks.
"We encourage our officers to carry 24/7, 365," said Mincks, who noted that even off-duty officers could be needed at any moment.
Brum, however, interprets the LEOSA exemption differently. Brum pointed to a release from the Fraternal Order of Police that explained the LEOSA law to its members. The release stated, "State laws (not local) laws which prohibit the carriage of firearms onto state or local government property...would still apply to qualified active and retired law enforcement."
As a retired deputy, Brum could technically qualify for the same LEOSA certification as Weber.
Maintaining it is illegal, he said he has no interest in carrying a gun in the courthouse, but he would like to get his LEOSA certification so he can use his concealed carry permit in any state. However, Brum said his retired law enforcement ID is being withheld from him.
Receiving LEOSA certification requires retired law enforcement ID, as well as a concealed carry permit and certification obtained by taking a yearly qualification exam.
"I've asked for my ID, and they won't give me one," said Brum.
Mincks said he is not required by law to issue the retired identification cards and has concerns about issuing Brum one because Brum's medical conditions might make carrying a firearm risky.
"I have told Jack Brum on at least five occasions to come in and see me and talk about the situation. Until that happens, I am certainly not going to issue him an identification card," said Mincks.
All retired officers are required to come in person to have a photo taken, he added.
Though he does not foresee ever needing to use his gun inside the courthouse, Weber contended his experience with the Ohio State Highway Patrol makes him a valuable resource if something were to go wrong.
"It is just a crazy world. You never know what is going to happen," he said.