Concealed carrying of weapons is permitted, for now, at the Kilbourn Public Library after the library board reversed a decision to post signs prohibiting the weapons.
At a meeting Thursday, library board members said they wanted to persuade legislators to change the law to list libraries in the Wisconsin Statutes as buildings where weapons are prohibited.
The board voted 3-2 to rescind a December vote to post signs prohibiting concealed carry. Members Dianne Effinger and Bill Pettit voted against rescinding. Members Jo Ann Luke and Kathleen Helland were absent.
Wisconsin Dells Mayor Brian Landers came to talk to the board about banning concealed weapons.
Landers said there isn't civil liability protection for city buildings that post a sign prohibiting concealed weapons. He added that he city's research from its insurance company and attorney has uncovered that. The problem is the city can't promise safety even if it does post signs, he said. And the city would have to show an effort to ensure that safety, he said.
He said he doesn't want the city of Wisconsin Dells to take on risk. He said he appreciated the library board's concern for safety, but that the issue is about liability for the city.
"Whether you like the law or not, it's here," Landers said.
Library board member Gisela Hamm gave the reason behind her initial support for posting signs that were to have a disclaimer saying the library couldn't guarantee safety.
"As a representative of the school district, I was looking at it from a standpoint of protecting the kids....And I think we all felt that way," Hamm said.
But at Thursday's meeting, Hamm was ready to vote the other way.
Lake Delton resident and library board member Bill Pettit voted against rescinding the board's earlier action, and he said the board was only hearing Landers' interpretation of the law.
The library is supported with funds from the village of Lake Delton and city of Wisconsin Dells. The village of Lake Delton has decided to post signs prohibiting weapons in public buildings.
"How can you say the village of Lake Delton is that stupid?" he said to Landers. "You are saying that anybody who does that (posts) and puts themselves in jeopardy are wrong," Pettit said.
Landers asked if the library independently would be able to defend Library Director Cathy Borck if she was sued after a bad incident at the library involving weapons and would a sign really stop someone from harming people in the library?
Pettit said he thought the library could defend Borck in a lawsuit.
Library Board President Glenn Deedon said this discussion was why the issue has to go to court to be cleaned up, and that the city takes care of a lot of administrative things for the library that makes the Dells library operate differently from others.
Landers, a former Wisconsin Dells police officer, said he advises police chiefs and sheriffs on liability issues and is appointed by the state to be on a use of force committee to talk about liability matters. He also said he is a Madison College instructor who teaches the concealed carry law. He said if the village of Lake Delton is taking the opposite stance, he thinks it is taking a risk.
"This has nothing to do with safety, I hope you all realize it. I think safety is paramount to me for our community, and I will bend over backwards to do whatever I can to make people safe. But it just goes to that the city's directive, based on all the research that we've done including the company that insures us, has said don't post. It's just too soon," Landers said.
He said the state will likely need a court case to clear up the law.
"I don't want the Dells to be that test case. And I don't want to be paying out on a federal lawsuit millions of dollars," he said.
Library board member Debbie Kinder, who is a Wisconsin Dells alderperson, said the library has to "bite the bullet" and go with Landers' requirement that it not post signs. But she added the library board should work with legislators to change the law so that weapons are barred from libraries.
Landers said he thinks it makes sense that if firearms are restricted in schools, they should be in libraries also. Landers said the Wisconsin State Statutes currently prohibit weapons in police departments, municipal courts, mental institutions, prisons, jails, federal and state courthouses and schools.
The library never posted signs prohibiting weapons even after it voted to do so in December. The library building is located in the city of Wisconsin Dells, even though it is operated with both village of Lake Delton and city of Wisconsin Dells funds. People wishing to carry a concealed weapon need a permit to do so.
In other business, the board took the following action:
- Borck said no other people contacted her with an interest in serving on the Columbia County Library Board, so Effinger will be the board's nominee.
- Approved library annual report.
- Approved the Sauk County Agreement.