Only active duty peace officers and a few others will be allowed to carry weapons inside Fresno City Hall, the council decided Thursday.
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Enacting a new policy at the behest of Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, the council voted 6-1 to limit guns to law enforcement officers, retired law enforcement officers (as long as they check in with security), and the city’s independent police auditor John Gliatta, himself a former FBI agent with a license to carried a concealed firearm.
The verdict came over the sometimes loud objections of councilman Garry Bredefeld.
“This is nothing more than an effort to disarm law-abiding CCW holders, whose only crime today was to meet up with politicians that want to disarm them,” Bredefeld said after the vote.
“We are very supportive (of the Second Amendment),” said police chief Andy Hall during the meeting. “We are just trying to find the right balance.”
The new CCW policy coincides with enhanced security at City Hall that went into place Jan. 2. Members of the public now have a single point of entry and are screened through metal detectors. While employees are exempt from screening, that policy could change.
Bredefeld Defends Gun Rights
“Mayor Brand’s plan is declaring a gun-free zone … Maniacs love gun-free zones.” — Councilman Garry Bredefeld
Bredefeld said the security policy benefits “bad guys.”
“Mayor Brand’s plan is declaring a gun-free zone,” Bredefeld said. “Maniacs love gun-free zones.”
Both Brand and Hall disagreed with Bredefeld’s characterization of the policy.
Bredefeld then played a video of a news story regarding a 2010 shooting at a Florida school board meeting. It showed graphic images of a man firing a gun at school board members. All the shots missed, and the shooter eventually killed himself (the latter not seen in the video).
Council president Miguel Arias cut off the video, angering Bredefeld.
“You don’t cut any video. That’s my video,” Bredefeld shouted. “That’s the reality with people with guns. If you don’t like it, too bad.”
Afterward, Arias expressed concern about broadcasting such images to children who may be watching on cable TV through CMAC (public access).
“It was in poor taste,” Arias said. He said the council may need to revisit its rules for airing videos.
Bredefeld vs. Hall
Bredefeld questioned Hall about CCW permit holders and safety. At times, it seemed like a made-for-TV courtroom drama.
Asked about how many CCW permit holders committed crimes at City Hall, Hall answered that he wasn’t aware of any.
A frustrated city manager Wilma Quan tried to end Bredefeld’s questioning. Bredefeld refused to yield, and city attorney Douglas Sloan clarified that the council regulated itself.
“Wilma Quan didn’t like the answers Andy Hall was giving, which were CCW holders are law-abiding citizens that cause no problems,” Bredefeld told GV Wire afterward.
No other council members commented after Bredefeld finished. Arias called for the vote, with Bredefeld providing the only dissent.
After the debate, Hall said while he respects Bredefeld, he didn’t appreciate the questioning.
“It was a little bit off-putting to have to go through a cross-examination. I did get tired of it,” Hall said.
“Some individuals struggle with keeping their composure, being respectful not only of our council colleagues but also of the police chief. It is unnecessary,” Arias said after the meeting.
Brand Defends Security Plan
“Is this plan perfect? No, it’s not. … But it’s an evolving process as we go forward. Fresno City Hall is not a gun-free zone.” — Mayor Lee Brand
Brand, at the beginning of the debate, defended his proposed policy. He noted there are 3,000 CCW permit holders in the city.
The 2017 Kori Muhammad incident prompted Brand to call for enhanced security policies at City Hall. Muhammad is accused of killing four men in what was described as a shooting rampage in downtown Fresno. His case is still in the court system.
The mayor also cited a 2016 shooting at the Fresno County jail lobby.
Brand discussed some of the procedures, including a single point of entry, more cameras, and armed police officers in the building.
He also talked about adding a screening unit in the back of the building for employees.
“Is this plan perfect? No, it’s not. … But it’s an evolving process as we go forward. Fresno City Hall is not a gun-free zone,” Brand said noting police officers are armed.
Brand said there is no unrestricted right to carry a gun in public buildings.
“In today’s world, there is an active shooter, mass shooter somewhere … I want to be proactive,” Brand said. “I don’t want blood on my hands.”
Thirteen members of the public spoke on the issue, and 12 agreed with Bredefeld.
“What problems have CCW holders caused?” asked Liz Kolstad, a well-known conservative advocate.
Sam Frank, president of the union representing many City Hall workers, said his employees had mixed opinions on the issue.
While not necessarily against a plan to screen employees, Frank said, he wanted to make sure they were protected from being late to work because they had to wait in a security line. That could mean the ability to officially start their day prior to entering the line, or not being written up because employees had to wait.