Should Fresno city employees who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon be able to pack heat on the job? Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld thinks so, and will ask his council colleagues next week to pass a resolution to allow it.
Others, however, aren’t keen on the idea, including Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer and Mayor Lee Brand – who said he will veto the plan if it passes.
“We have code enforcement officers and other employees working out in the community, and some of them have been threatened,” Bredefeld said. “They should have the opportunity to protect themselves and potentially protect others.”
Pepper spray would also be authorized under the measure.
Bredefeld said the genesis of his proposal was the April 2017 rampage through a neighborhood north of downtown Fresno in which Kori Ali Muhammad is accused of gunning down three people, just days after he is alleged to have shot and killed a security guard at a central Fresno motel. “There have been instances where people with a CCW (concealed-carry weapon) license have been able to prevent such loss of life,” Bredefeld said.
Bredefeld, who has a CCW permit, said required training and background checks for people to qualify for a permit are stringent enough to ensure that gun-toting employees would carry their weapon responsibly. “These are people who are very responsible citizens.”
If Bredefeld’s idea is approved and survives a potential mayoral veto, employees would be required to prove they carry at least $1 million in CCW liability insurance and to keep the weapon concealed on their person at all times unless it is stored in a safe.
The insurance requirement is intended to protect the city if an employee uses the gun while on the job.
“The city is always at risk for anything an employee does,” Bredefeld said. “The city gets sued all the time. That’s the downside. But the upside is that somebody’s life might be saved.”
Brand said he opposes a blanket authorization as “overkill, and an overreach by a City Council member over the authority of the city manager and the police chief.” He added that he would veto the resolution if it passes, “but I’d be really surprised if there’s any support for this beyond one or two votes on the council.”
One of Brand’s biggest concerns is the liability the city could face in the event of a shooting by an employee on the job. Not only would that employee be sued, but “I guarantee you they’re going to sue the city, too.”
Instead, Brand believes authorization should be made by on a case-by-case basis by the city manager, a post taken over this month by Wilma Quan-Schecter. “Why are we doing this? I don’t see the need for it,” he said.
Brand acknowledged that he’s had a CCW permit for years. He said he brought his gun to City Hall “on a handful of occasions” after he was elected to the City Council in 2008, but only after authorization from then-City Manager Mark Scott. As mayor since January, he has taken a gun with him to public events “and one or two times to City Hall” because his higher visibility provides a greater potential to be targeted for threats.
Bredefeld described Brand’s position as “hypocritical and unfair.”
“The mayor ought to give every city employee the very same right to protect themselves that he himself has exercised with his CCW permit,” Bredefeld said.
He added that several employees approached him to complain that they want to carry their weapons but had not been allowed to. That’s why, he added, that he prefers not to leave the decision in the hands of a city manager.
“If we leave it to one person, it becomes whatever their beliefs are about guns or concealed weapons, and different people have different points of view,” Bredefeld said.
But Dyer, the city’s top cop who is authorized by city codes to issue CCW permits in Fresno, also opposes Bredefeld’s idea.
Dyer told The Bee on Thursday that his office has issued 159 concealed-weapon permits so far this year.
“I’m a strong proponent of citizens having the ability to carry firearms, as long as they go through the appropriate process and background checks,” Dyer said. “But there is a difference when you cross over into the workplace. For anyone who chooses to carry a firearm at work that I issue a permit to, I require a letter from their employer that authorizes that to occur.”
Rather than a blanket policy, Dyer said he would prefer such privileges be granted on a case-by-case basis by the city manager in consultation with the employee’s department director.
“It should depend on the employee’s work assignment, their work history, temperament – all of that has to be considered, and to also make sure the employee receives frequent training on decision-making with a firearm,” Dyer said.
The chief said that even police officers, with the extensive training they receive on decision-making under high-stress situations, “may make a decision that they shouldn’t have made” using a gun.
The city’s labor unions would also need to be consulted “because you’d have employees working side by side with other employees who are armed,” Dyer added. “A person carrying a weapon at work can be a danger to other workers, but that employee can also defuse certain situations. There can be rewards, but there are also a lot of risks.”