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Harford County Councilman Joe Woods and his wife, Laura, are shown in her Maryland Quartermaster store in Bel Air. Joe Woods says he's occasionally worn a licensed handgun to council meetings.
Harford County Councilman Joe Woods and his wife, Laura, are shown in her Maryland Quartermaster store in Bel Air. Joe Woods says he's occasionally worn a licensed handgun to council meetings. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Harford County Councilman Joe Woods, a former county sheriff's deputy who helps run a police supply store, is allowed to bring a gun to the council chambers, but said he almost never does.

Despite recent safety concerns brought up by new Council President Dick Slutzky to justify a short-lived change in security policy at the chambers, Woods said he has not felt the need to arm himself when he's been on the dais.

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Woods said Tuesday he has only ended up with a gun at a council meeting only a handful of times, primarily because of logistics as he left the store headed for a council meeting.

"I think a couple of times it's happened," Woods said, explaining he neither tries to bring a gun, nor tries not to bring one.

"I think it just doesn't happen," the incumbent councilman said. "It's not on my conscience either way."

He has a federal firearm license because of his store, Maryland Quartermaster on Bel Air's Main Street, which sells supplies to military, police and public safety officials. He also has three permits to carry a firearm – from Maryland, Florida and Pennsylvania, Woods said.

Sgt. Marc Black, spokesman for Maryland State Police, said a new law prohibits him from confirming any details of Woods' permits or licenses.

"All that information is now confidential," Black said.

When Woods did come to the chambers with a gun, he would inform the deputies on duty about it.

As a firefighter and former chief of the Fallston Volunteer Fire Company, Woods said he has assumed that if an incident occurs in the council chambers, he would assume a medical role, not a law enforcement one.

"That's not what I'm out there for," he said about the idea of providing security while on the dais.

Woods added he did not carry a gun to new Harford County Executive Barry Glassman's high-profile inauguration, where the council members were also sworn in.

At a recent council meeting, Woods mentioned that he was asked by new Sheriff Jeff Gahler to be part of a task force on the Second Amendment, which protects gun ownership.

He said after the meeting he does not know any more about the task force or what it would entail.

Woods, a Republican, represents Fallston and Abingdon. He joined the county council in 2009 when he was appointed to the District B seat following the death of Veronica Chenowith. He was elected to a full term in 2010 and re-elected in November. He did not have an opponent in either of this year's primary or general elections.

No other council members have reported being armed on the dais, or being legally allowed to do so.

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Councilman Jim McMahan, a longtime incumbent, declined to comment on the issue.

Councilman Chad Shrodes, the other incumbent, said: "I do not have a special firearm permit, and I have never brought a firearm into the council chambers."

New Councilman Mike Perrone was the only other member to reply to an email, sent to all council members. He likewise said he has not brought in a firearm.

"I think safety is a matter of degree," Perrone wrote. "I don't feel any less safe in the council chamber than I do in the communities where I work and volunteer."

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