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Bill bans firearms in county buildings

Pending St. Louis County legislation would outlaw firearms in all county buildings, but police officers are not yet sure how the ordinance would be enforced.

Under the recently approved state concealed-weapon law, on Oct. 13 people who have obtained permits will be able to carry hidden firearms. The law does not allow anyone with a weapon to enter a courthouse, but it gives counties and other governmental units the authority to set their own gun restrictions in other public buildings.

Legislation introduced at the Sept. 16 County Council meeting would prohibit anyone with a concealed weapon from entering county-owned or county-operated buildings.

These restrictions would include county officials and exclude law enforcement agents, including sheriff and security personnel, according to the legislation.

Every county building has either St. Louis County commissioned police officers or department-employed security officers. These officers would be responsible for enforcing the proposed county restrictions.

Lt. Gary Berra, commander of the St. Louis County Police Department's media relations, said the department supports the county government because it is broadening the scope of the state ordinance to educate the public letting it know what will be enforced or allowed in county buildings.

"Our interest is to get out to the public what the county government's desires are for where people carry these weapons," he said.

The state law allows law enforcement agents to deny violators access to buildings or to remove them from the premises.

However, until a county ordinance is approved and specific provisions are established, Berra said he does not know how the legislation will be enforced.

"We're not certain if we will need to seize the weapon or give a person a ticket and send them on their way ... None of that has been determined."

He said it is too premature to say how procedures and staffing would change and if other equipment, such as additional me-tal detectors, would need to be purchased.

"Most buildings already have metal detectors," he said. "None of that is going to change ... Nothing will change that will allow citizens to carry firearms into buildings where they could not carry them previously."

Overall, he said the Police Department will enforce and stand behind the county's legislation, but it needs more specific instructions before it can modify current procedures.

"This thing is only a week old," he said. "There's a lot to be done evidently."

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