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December 19. 2012 9:32PM

Salem forced to repeal ban on weapons in Town Hall

SALEM - While debate surrounding gun control heats up, state law is requiring Salem town officials to repeal a personnel policy banning town employees from bringing weapons to the workplace. On Monday, Human Resources Director Molly McKean asked the Board of Selectmen to rescind a policy banning town employees from bringing weapons to Town Hall. The change will keep the town in compliance with state law.

"Rescinding the ban is something I brought to the board hesitantly," McKean said.

McKean began updating personnel policies shortly after taking the director's position in January 2012. The firearms ban was included in the revisions approved last summer. An employee later informed McKean that the ban violated a New Hampshire state law allowing people to carry firearms in public places, she said.

While she personally believes the ban is sound policy, McKean said state law is clear. She brought the request to selectmen so the required change could be made as part of the 2013 revisions going into effect Jan. 1.

Rescinding the policy will protect the town against potential litigation and protest, McKean said.

Other personnel policies, such as those prohibiting employee harassment, allow the town some recourse in handling weapons complaints. The timing of the request was unfortunate.

On Friday the nation was shocked by news that a 20-year-old man shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The tragedy has reopened debate about gun control laws nationwide.

Town Hall sits across the street from the high school. McKeon said federal law currently prohibits people from carrying weapons within 1,000 feet of a school.

Attorney Penny Dean of Concord said exceptions exist within that federal law. She commended McKean for discovering the policy problem and fixing it in due course.

Selectmen had little choice in the matter given the state law.

On Wednesday, Selectman Stephen Campbell said the real question is why Concord would prevent the town from setting such a policy.

"The town can only do what the state allows," Campbell said.

Chairman Pat Hargreaves said the board had no choice in the matter.

"I believe that employees other than the police department should not be able to carry guns in town offices," Hargreaves said. "But we have our hands tied by Concord."

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Julie Hanson may be reached at Jhanson@newstote.com.


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