Concealed carry ban lifted at city hall
BY MIKE WARREN
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield’s city hall is no longer a gun-free zone. The Marshfield Common Council on July 12 voted 6-4 to remove a sign that reads, “No firearms or weapons in establishment” from the front door of the facility.
New Alderman Mike O’Reilly requested the issue be placed on the agenda for a vote, after the Common Council twice voted in recent years to keep the sign – and weapons ban – in place.
“It frustrates me that a local government body like this feels that they have the ability to take away a Second Amendment right of a citizen to protect themselves,” O’Reilly said during debate on the issue. “I look at that sign out there, for example, and common sense tells me that is going to stop no one that is going to come in here with bad intentions. The only thing it accomplishes is taking away the rights of the other individuals here to protect themselves from whoever that crazy person might be. From what I’ve read, 85 percent of mass shootings happen in a soft zone, gun-free zones, where it’s quite obvious whoever that deranged person is understands that, if they come into that building, they’re not gonna really have much, if any…someone to counter their actions,” O’Reilly added.
Alderman Nick Poeschel, a retired Marshfield police officer, again expressed his opposition to removing the sign, as he did in 2021.
“The mass shootings that Mike (O’Reilly) talks about are still a rare occasion. They make a lot of headlines, but they’re still a rare occasion,” he said. “Second, the fantasy that’s been propagated by the NRA and other groups that the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun is another fallacy. And, the most-important reason of all is that I feel that introducing a weapon into any environment causes that environment to become less safe, not more safe. You’re far more likely to have someone accidentally killed by someone carrying a gun into a workplace than you are by having someone walk in off the street and use a weapon,” Poeschel added.
Ed Wagner, who also voted against the sign’s removal, said “The sign itself doesn’t do anything. The sign doesn’t guarantee that this is going to be a gun-free zone.”
In opposition to the sign, District eight representative Rebecca Spiros said, “I’ve never supported the sign because I think it’s just ridiculous to assume that somebody who has ill intentions is going to be stopped by a sign.” Spiros, O’Reilly, Tom Witzel, Adam Fischer, Peter Hendler and Brian Varsho voted in favor of the sign’s removal. Varsho, who voted in October, 2021 to leave the sign in place the last time the council addressed the issue, this time voted to get rid of the sign, thus giving O’Reilly’s motion just enough votes for passage. The last time the subject was voted on, the motion failed 5-5, and the tiebreaker – the Mayor – didn’t exist at the time. Had Varsho not changed his vote this time around, the Common Council would have again deadlocked on the matter, and the tiebreaker – Mayor Lois TeStrake – was not present for the meeting.
Third-district representative Natasha Tompkins, who joined Wagner, Poeschel and Mike Feirer in voting against the sign’s removal, wondered about opening up city hall to employees possibly carrying weapons into the workplace. “We have very limited gun data in our country, but we do have data about guns in the home,” said Tompkins. “We know that when guns are in the home, the risk of accidental injuries and discharge is higher. We also know that the rate of suicide is higher, and homicides. So, we already know that, in the home if there’s a gun present, the accidental use of a firearm is higher. We don’t have workplace data, but I would assume that if we have a gun in the workplace, our data I assume would be similar, but we don’t have that data, so I’m just wondering if this is a safety issue among workers bringing guns in. We say if everyone brings a gun we’re gonna be safe, but I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s probably a myth. I don’t think we have data to actually support that.”
Coincidentally enough, the change – to remove the sign – now contradicts a city policy prohibiting employees from bringing weapons into the workplace. “Since the meeting, it’s come to light that we have a personnel policy that specifically prohibits that,” City Administrator Steve Barg told Hub City Times during a July 13 post-Council interview. “So right now, we have a conflict between the signs that are about to come down and the policy that says no employee at city hall may carry,” Barg added. “So, what we’re gonna have to do is bring this forward to the Finance, Budget and Personnel Committee, and see if their intent has been to also modify that personnel policy to allow employees to carry. I think the answer to that will be ‘yes’, but again, we have to remove that conflict in the personnel policy. Right now we’re kind of in limbo. Even though the sign comes down, it says right in the employee manual that you cannot carry.”
Furthermore, Barg conducted a rather informal email survey of employees when the issue first went before the council in the fall of 2019, and found that “a slight preference was shown for keeping the signage,” according to a Nov. 7, 2019 memo from Barg to members of the council at the time.