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‘Clark County employees do not lose their rights,’ says commissioner

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While Seattle Times readers don’t think very highly of a proposal, reported by that newspaper yesterday, to allow Clark County employees to have firearms if they are licensed to carry, County Commissioner Tom Mielke in an exclusive interview Friday with this column exressed a decidedly different perspective.

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BULLETIN: Authorities in Portland arrested a wanted fugitive from Montana yesterday, today’s Seattle Times is reporting. The manhunt for Kevin Anthony Briggs was first reported by this column one week ago. A $10,000 reward had been offered in that case.

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“Employees do not, in my opinion, lose their constitutional rights because they work for the county,” Mielke, a former state lawmaker, said in a telephone conversation.

Since the proposal was put on the table earlier this week, Mielke noted, “I haven’t had any negatives from any of (our) employees.”

The controversial proposal, which still has a long ways to go before becoming a reality, was a reaction by Mielke and Commissioner David Madore to a shooting in a county office building by a woman who was allegedly stalking the man she shot, Allen Bricker.

The woman, Deborah Lennon, has been charged with first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, stalking and cyberstalking, the Times reported.

Mielke told Examiner that he’s gotten strong support from local citizens, but there has also been some opposition. A local Vancouver anti-gunner, Heidi Yewman, told the Vancouver Columbian earlier in the week that “A gun is not a defensive tool, it’s an offensive tool.” That remark leaves self-defense experts rolling their eyes.

A self-admitted conservative, Mielke said, “We promote diversity, equal rights and the right to protect one’s self and why in the world would I take that away from my employees? Why would I knowingly make them a target by putting a sign out here (that says) ‘gun free zone?’ That’s what we do.”

The Clark County Commission may be at odds with a 1991 State Supreme Court ruling in Cherry v. The Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, however. In that case, Metro bus driver John Cherry was dismissed from the job because he was carrying a handgun on the job in violation of Metro policy. The state high court upheld the firing.

Times readers have raised concerns about liability from accidental discharges and workplace violence, but nobody has raised the equal concern about people being able to defend themselves from workplace violence. Mielke, who is licensed to carry, noted that as a commissioner, he’s exempt from the no-guns policy for employees. He considers that something of a double standard, and he trusts Clark County employees far more than the gun control crowd evidently does.

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