The Manatee County Commission held a meeting to consider allowing county employees to carry concealed guns to work.By Casey Albritton

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – The Manatee County Commission held a meeting to consider allowing county employees to carry concealed guns to work.

“Gun free zones end up becoming criminal empowerment zones. It gives the bad guys more power than they should to do more harm,” said James Satchel with the Manatee County County Commission.

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“We do not need to put ourselves in a situation where we open our citizens and open our staff up to the wild wild West,” said Reggie Bellamy with the Manatee County County Commission.

A heated debate filled the Manatee County Commission meeting on Tuesday.

“If we are going to have locked doors, to get to the top floor of our building, if we are going to have sheriff’s at the opening of our proceedings here, then it’s only fair to allow our employees the option of protecting themselves,” said Satchel.

“Obviously if you terminate someone, guess what? Oh if i can’t be here, neither can you. And we are putting those options up,” said Bellamy.

Commissioner James Satcher started the conversation back in May about allowing county employees to carry concealed guns to work.

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Many argued during public comment that allowing guns would create a hostile work environment…others claimed it would make the work environment safer.

“We cannot afford to waste ten to 15 minutes of police response time to save and protect us, especially when especially when lives are in danger and every second counts,” said one person during public comment.

“It would put law enforcement at risk during an active shooter situation when it’s unclear who the good guys are. It would create the impression that working for Manatee County is inherently dangerous,” said another commentator.

After over two hours of debate, commissioners voted six to one to discuss the issue at another meeting with the sheriff and county attorney involved.

“We cannot always rely on law enforcement to be the sole protectors of our families and communities,” said one commentator.

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“All it does is introduce the potential for violence to settle disputes at work,” said Charlene Kow with Progressive Manatee.