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Concealed Weapons on Gov't Property in Columbia County: Guns Pt-II

Photo of gun and knife with caption: concealed weapons in Columbia County. Government rules and what they are doing
Photo: Andy Montes de Oca via Unsplash | Columbia County Observer graphic

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – After the recent gun incident at the City Council, the Observer reached out to the City, County, School District, Florida Gateway College, and the Lake Shore Hospital Authority for an update on their gun policies and signage.


With increasing gun violence across America and after the massacre in Parkland and other communities across the US, some communities are beginning to inform residents about gun regulations and enforce gun restrictions.

Everyone queried for this article was helpful and concerned about complying with the law.

Gun carrying in Florida is primarily governed by FL Statute 790.06

In 2019, conservative republicans attempted to remove the provision prohibiting concealed carry licensees from openly carrying handguns or concealed weapons or firearms into college or university facilities. (2019 HB 6007) The law died in committee. If passed, it would have removed the existing prohibition from Florida Statute 790.06.

After Parkland, there was hope in many circles that gun laws would be tightened. For more information, see Guns after Parkland.

The Law

Florida statute 790.06 (12)(a) primarily governs where one can carry a concealed weapon in Florida.

As County Attorney Joel Foreman recently pointed out in a memo to County Manager David Kraus, “There is no prohibition preventing legal concealed carry of firearms inside public buildings except where expressly provided by the Florida Law, and the County is without authority to create such regulation.”

Concealed carry is legal with a Florida Concealed Weapons License (CWL) or a concealed carry permit from a state that Florida honors.

The Florida CWL allows holders of the license to carry a handgun and other weapons such as electronic weapons, tear gas guns, Billie clubs, and knives.

These are the places in which you cannot carry a concealed weapon:

• Any place of nuisance as defined in s. 823.05;
• Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station;
• Any detention facility, prison, or jail;
• Any courthouse;
• Any courtroom…;
• Any polling place;
• Any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special district;
• Any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof;
• Any school, college, or professional athletic event not related to firearms;
• Any elementary or secondary school facility or administration building;
• Any career center;
• Any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, which portion of the establishment is primarily devoted to such purpose;
• Any college or university facility...;
• The inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport…;
• Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law.

Lake City Update

No weapons sign outside the enterence of City Hall and Council chamber
Sign outside the enterence of City Hall and Council chamber. (Photo: City Clerk)

The City’s recently installed signs do not comply with the law. Concealed weapons are only banned from the Council chamber when the City Council is meeting.

Interim Lake City Police Chief Butler is waiting for a written opinion from City Attorney Fred Koberlein regarding the City’s signage.

Chief Butler told your reporter, “I put the signs up to remind everybody that weapons were not allowed in government buildings. Right now, the only stuff going on in the building is the meetings because most of the building is basically shut down."

According to Chief Butler, City Attorney Koberlein favors doing away with posted warning signs unless there is a meeting.

Nothing prohibits the permanent posting of a warning or informative signage advising the public of the law. Speed limit signs are an example.

It will be interesting to see the City Attorney's opinion and how he charges.

City Clerk Audrey Sikes said that years ago, when the City was moving into City Hall, Councilman John Robertson "expressed concerns about the safety of the City Council" and wanted to institute the use of metal detecting wands.

Columbia County

Shaun Holmgren during a County economic development meeting. Sitting at Mr. Holmgren's right is Lake City Reporter editor Jamie Wahter.
Shawn Holmgren (hat in face) during a County economic development meeting. It is unknown if he was packing at this meeting, or if the County Attorney deems this a meeting covered by the Florida statutes covering concealed weapons.

County Attorney Joel Foreman recently wrote a memo to the County Manager outlining the restrictions listed earlier in this article.

While Mr. Foreman did address posting notices outside the Courthouse and other buildings covered in the statute, his remarks regarding the meeting room only notice implies that posting notices outside a building advising the public that guns and weapons are prohibited in “meeting rooms where public meetings are to take place” is not legal.

Mr. Foreman’s use of the phrase, “meeting rooms where public meetings are to take place,” is not addressed in the statute. He needs to take a closer look.

County Attorney Foreman also did not weigh in on committees of the County Commission where only one member of the County Commission is on the committee.

Is it OK to attend these meetings with concealed weapons?

Columbia County School District

No firearms sign outside the auditorium at the School Board Admin Bldg. (Photo: Lex Carswell)
Sign outside the auditorium at the School Board Admin Bldg. (Photo: Lex Carswell)

Superintendent of Schools Lex Carswell spoke for the district. He explained, “The school district has a zero-tolerance on guns at any school facility. We take simulated guns as real guns. We protect everyone by not allowing simulated guns on campus. We are trying to keep our students and staff safe. We don't want the kid who brings a toy gun on campus to end up in the crosshairs of a deputy sheriff who doesn't know it's fake. The best way to do it is to keep all guns and simulated guns and real guns off our campus."

After your reporter explained the goings-on at Tuesday's City Hall meeting, Superintendent Carswell said he would check the school facilities for signage.

Later in the day, the Superintendent texted, "They are on the fences in front of the schools, but we did a quick check today, and some have been stolen. We are working to replace ASAP.”

A little while later, Superintendent Carswell said he was planning to install signs at the main entrances of the buildings.

Florida Gateway College: 3,000 plus students and staff

Your reporter inquired of College President Barrett if signage was outside the college buildings or on the campus.

President Barrett responded, “We don't have any signs on the outside of the buildings or the campus."

Your reporter followed up, "Do you intend to put signs on the buildings informing folks that the College campus is a no-gun zone?"

President Barrett responded, “We believe our campus policy is in compliance with state law. However, we are reviewing it again. In light of recent events, we are looking at signage in the public buildings and also at our entrance ways.”

The FGC “guns on campus policy” was last reviewed in 1995.

President Barrett added, “We intend to put signs up at the entranceways; there are two main entranceways, entering the college campus.  We will be putting them up at the library, administration building, performing arts center, the gym, and other main entrances of buildings with public access. The signs will comply with all ADA requirements.”

The Lake Shore Hospital Authority

The Authority’s Executive Director Dale Williams said, “I will make sure I check the statutes and the Authority is in compliance.”

Your reporter asked if he thought it was a good idea to post a sign on the building.

Director Williams said, “I think it is a good idea that people are notified that guns are not allowed at Hospital Authority Board meetings.”

He said he would check with the Authority Attorney, Fred Koberlein. Fred Koberlein is the same attorney as the City, who purportedly is not in favor of advance notice outside the building.

It is not clear if Mr. Koberlein will be billing the Authority for a separate opinion.

The Town of Fort White

City Attorney Fred Koberlein is also the Attorney for Fort White. It is unknown if he will be sending his opinion to the Town Council or his fee for that.

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