Jon Ostendorff, Asheville Citizen-Times
MURPHY -- Cherokee County leaders are taking North Carolina's expansion of gun rights a step further by allowing legal concealed weapons in most all county offices.
Anyone, including county employees, may carry a concealed handgun with the proper permit.
Guns are still prohibited inside the courthouse, schools and the jail, said David Wood, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.
But in offices ranging from the social services to the tax appraiser, they will be allowed, he said.
Wood said the five-member board decided in December to repeal the county's 1995 ban on carrying a gun inside government buildings after the state expanded the right to carry in places such as bars and at parks.
"It's a big deal when it comes to Second Amendment rights and county commissioners don't have any business doing legislation at a local level with such important issues," he said.
Cherokee County is not alone, nationally.
In Michigan in August commissioners in Jackson County west of Ann Arbor allowed county employees to carry licensed concealed weapons to conform to state law, according to WLNS-TV.
• In Kansas last month commissioners in Harvey County north of Wichita also allowed workers to carry concealed guns after they provided county human resources managers with a copy of their permits, according to The Kansan newspaper.
• In Kentucky in January state law changed to allow open carry in any city-owned building and concealed carry in some places, like firehouses, according to USA Today.
The county is also not alone in North Carolina.
Henderson County employees may carry legal concealed weapons on the job with permission from County Manager Steve Wyatt.
Wyatt said he's approved "a couple" since commissioners allowed the practice about 4 years ago.
Workers must fill out an application and provide a copy of their concealed weapons permit. They also must tell Wyatt why they want to carry a gun at work.
Mostly, he said, those who have been approved are women and there is a safety concern that drives the approval.
"It's a heavy responsibility for them and for me," he said.
Haywood and Buncombe in counties do not allow workers to carry guns, officials said.
Alamance County, between Greensboro and Durham, also repealed its 1995 ban on concealed weapons in most county buildings in December, said County Manager Craig Honeycutt.
The public is allowed to carry concealed guns in any building except the courts and workers may carry everywhere except in county vehicles. That's so a gun won't accidentally be left in a glove box, Honeycutt said.
The move by Cherokee County is a good decision, said Paul Valone, president of the gun rights group Grass Roots North Carolina.
"I think it is a great step forward and something that many of our people, who are county employees, have been asking for for quite some time," he said. "They are no less subject to criminal predation than anyone else."
Valone said county employees, like social workers, often find themselves in dangerous situations and might need a gun for self-defense.
Concealed carry permit holders must complete classes on gun safety, he said. They also learn about the legal use of deadly force in self-defense.
Valone said the permit holder would likely be held liable for using a gun while on the job, not the county government. As of September, there were 375,628 concealed carry permit holders in the state, he said.
The state's anti-gun violence group disagreed with the county's decision.
"I think it's a really bad idea," said Gail Neely, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.
She's also a guardian ad litem, someone who volunteers to advocate for children in court. She's had to visit many troubled homes, similar what a social worker might encounter.
"It would be just as likely for someone to overpower me and take my gun and use it against me," she said. "And it would hinder the relationship. It doesn't say I am here to help, let's sit down and talk."