OUR VIEW: Concealed weapons conundrum

By Observer editorial February 21, 2014 10:08 am

Guns and rifles are an important part of the culture of Northeast Oregon. Most homes probably have firearms for hunting and for home protection.

Still, it seems a bit drastic for Milton-Freewater, just over the Blue Mountains from La Grande, to approve its city workers for carrying concealed weapons, if they choose, on the job. Milton-Freewater joins a handful of local jurisdictions across the country that have approved similar measures.

It makes sense that these workers would want to feel safe while carrying out their duties. Every worker has a right to a safe workplace. Still, even with the recent school, mall, workplace and theater shootings, and the resulting talk of having school employees armed to prevent violence, the Milton-Freewater measure seems an overreaction, and may encourage more violence than it solves.

In La Grande, we should work to avoid the siege mentality. We are already enough of an armed camp with the firearms we do have stashed away for hunting and home

We hope cities like La Grande, and the residents who live here, can feel safe enough that school and city employees, besides the police of course, can feel safe enough performing their duties that they don’t feel the need to carry while on the job.

That doesn’t mean violent acts can’t happen here. They can happen anywhere. 

It also doesn’t mean that we’ll see a significant increase in armed confrontations in Milton-Freewater or utility workers carrying six-shooters in their holsters as if in a Wild West movie. Most likely, though, things will continue with business going on as usual.

Still, many citizens might feel uncomfortable having their children go to schools where the teachers are armed, or having city workers who are armed come onto their properties to conduct business. That is especially true if those city workers and school employees weren’t required to do regular firearms training, as is required of law enforcement. Like anything else, unless people train regularly, their skills will deteriorate — and the world around them, if they are armed, will become less safe.

Thanks to the vigilance of its citizens and law enforcement, La Grande is basically a safe city and a good place to raise kids, to earn a living and to retire. City and school workers shouldn’t feel a need to have to arm themselves to feel safe on the job.