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Defying California law, Shasta County supervisors vote to allow concealed weapons in local government buildings

REDDING, CA - JANUARY 07: Patrick Jones, 52, right, of Redding, Shasta County Supervisor, District 4, helps a customer with the purchase of a 30-06 CZ hunting rifle at his business Jones' Fort gun shop on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 in Redding, CA. Newly elected Jones was one of two Shasta County Supervisors who unlocked the doors to the chambers to hold an in-person meeting in that was supposed to be virtual to protest statewide COVID-19 restrictions, in Redding. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Shasta County Supervisor Patrick Jones helps a customer at his family's Redding gun store in 2021. Jones introduced a resolution to allow concealed carry permit holders to bring weapons into county buildings. It passed by a 3-2 vote. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

In defiance of California law, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors this week voted to allow concealed weapons in local government buildings.

The resolution, passed Tuesday in a 3-2 vote, seeks to defy Senate Bill 2, a new state gun law — currently tied up in court — that bans concealed carry permit holders from bringing guns into places that lawmakers deem "sensitive."

Those places include government buildings, polling places, schools, public transit, medical facilities, playgrounds and bars.

"The Board of Supervisors considers SB 2, a law passed by the California Legislature, as unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, and unconstitutionally infringes upon the people's right to bear arms," the resolution states.

Anyone who has a valid California concealed carry license and legally registered gun can bring their firearm onto county property, "except where otherwise exempted by County Policy, State, and Federal law," it says.

Supervisor Patrick Jones, who introduced the resolution, decried California's strict gun laws, saying they "do not change criminal behavior."

Jones, who manages his family's Redding gun store, said the resolution "allows the legal opportunity for people to carry, properly admitted."

Questions remain about how much power the resolution has in this deeply conservative Northern California county.

Gretchen Stuhr, the county's attorney, told the supervisors that workplace policy prohibits county employees from having weapons at work, and the resolution "does not revoke" or "put any restrictions on our current policy against violence in the workplace."

Changing workplace safety policies, Stuhr said, requires the board to work with county employee unions.

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Steve Allen, business manager for United Public Employees of California Local 792, which represents about 1,000 Shasta County employees, told The Times in an email that the union was not notified about the resolution and that such a change would have to be negotiated.

Jones said the resolution applies to members of the public and that he intends to bring back another proposal regarding county employees.

The vote comes six months after the Board of Supervisors passed a mostly symbolic resolution saying it would "use all lawful means at its disposal to support and defend the Second Amendment."

The supervisors' new resolution blasts Senate Bill 2, which has been blocked as legal challenges proceed in federal court.

Read more: Judges put new California law barring guns in many public places on hold again

The controversial law, which was set to take effect Jan. 1, bars concealed-carry permit holders from bringing guns into a long list of places. The bill also makes businesses automatically gun-free zones unless the owner posts signs explicitly allowing firearms.

In an email to The Times, the press office for California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said some portions of the law were not challenged in federal litigation and remain in effect.

Those include restrictions on carrying concealed weapons in schools, courthouses, jails, airports, polling places and government buildings, the press office said.

In Shasta County — where raucous board meetings in recent years have included violent threats against supervisors and a failed attempt by one man to put all of them under citizen's arrest — some questioned the wisdom of allowing guns into such a charged environment.

Supervisor Mary Rickert, who voted against the resolution, said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there was heated debate over masks, vaccine requirements and other mandates, a former Shasta County employee who had a concealed carry permit emailed her a death threat.

Rickert said she met with a crisis intervention team and that she was given photos of the man and his vehicle.

"To this day, I keep my eyes open for him," Rickert said.

"You can't convince me [that] because someone has a concealed weapons permit that they are totally harmless."

Jenny O'Connell, a resident, said she worried about a repeat of the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, when a county employee and his wife opened fire on a holiday party for his colleagues, killing 14 people.

"Just look at the volatile environment within these chambers," O'Connell told the supervisors before their vote. "Look at this! Do you want want one of these people to come in and shoot you all? Look at how pissed everyone is!"

Jeff Gorder, a retired Shasta County public defender, asked if county department heads who have to discipline employees will now have to worry whether they are carrying guns.

"Let's say somebody gets shot. You know this county will get sued," he said.

Others welcomed the measure. One woman who said she has four daughters and several grandchildren said "all of them are vulnerable" and that "unfortunately, one of the great equalizers is a gun."

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Jon Knight, a right-wing political activist and conspiracy theorist whom the supervisors recently appointed to the local mosquito control district board, said California is just trying to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.

"I really appreciate you guys standing up for we the people by opposing [this] tyrannical overreach of government trying to take away all of our liberties and rights," he said.

In a video posted online earlier this month, Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson said he and his deputies would not enforce the Senate Bill 2 restrictions on carrying concealed weapons in sensitive places.

“It’s a fraud. It’s a lie, and in my opinion it is unconstitutional," Johnson said of the law.

“We will not expend our time and our efforts to address such needless and unconstitutional legislation."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.