Editorial: Prescott’s councilmembers don’t need guns at City Hall

This editorial board is divided on the issue of Prescott councilmembers being permitted to bring their weapons into City Hall.

Some believe that every American has a right to defend themselves. In 1978, former fireman Dan White entered San Francisco’s City Hall through a window to bypass the newly-installed metal detectors. He walked into the mayor’s office, asking to be appointed to the board of supervisors seat he had just resigned. When Mayor George Moscone refused, he shot him four times, killing him.

White then walked to the other side of city hall and shot another supervisor, Harvey Milk, five times to kill him.

We certainly can’t know what Moscone or Milk were thinking, but we suspect if they had a gun with them and had time to react they would have used it to defend themselves.

To state the obvious, Prescott is not San Francisco. There are only a handful of murders in Prescott in any given year. Three times in the past nine years it was zero. The most in the past decade was four in 2011.

Prescott Valley and Chino Valley have even fewer.

This region is probably not high on the potential target lists by terrorists. A gun in city hall is far more likely to injure a member of council or their staff than it is to stop a bad guy. Or it could end up in the wrong hands and used against them.

Currently, councilmembers who own and carry firearms must check them in and keep them locked inside a locker in the lobby of city hall.

All Council meetings have an armed officer in attendance, one who is trained to deal with threats. If councilmembers brought out their guns in an emergency situation, how many would be injured in the crossfire of a panic situation and how will the officers know who is acting out of aggression and who is acting out of self-defense?

And what message would an armed member of council send to the community they govern? Council meetings include a chance for any resident to speak to their representatives. Guns, by their nature, are intimidating. That’s the point, gun advocates argue. People are less likely to get violent if they know there are people in attendance with guns who are trained to use them.

But what if you’re a citizen upset about some aspect of city government? What if you’re pointing out a conflict of interest by one councilmember? What if that councilmember is wearing a gun on his or her hip?

Will you still speak out? They have the potential to stifle debate, and for that reason alone this proposal should be defeated. Perception is as powerful as any reality, even if there are no ill intentions in the councilmembers.

Prescott takes great pride in its frontier origins, as do we. But there comes a time when the frontier moves elsewhere and civilization takes hold. We no longer need gunfights in the streets to settle arguments, we have laws and civilized debate.

This is a safe community, with few serious threats of violence. There are armed, trained officers present to protect councilmembers.

Our editorial board is divided, but overall we see no need for councilmembers to bring their own weapons into city hall.