2 years after McDonald v. Chicago, legislatures continue to grapple with who should carry weapons into courthouses and/or courtrooms

February 1st, 2013 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

I’ve noted that since the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller finding an individual right to keep and bear arms and McDonald v. Chicago applied Heller to the states, various legislatures have confronted with issue of who should carry weapons into courthouses.

Some states, like Mississippi in 2011, have expanded the list of people who can carry.

Other states have grappled with the distinction between carrying into a courtroom versus a courthouse. For example in 2012 Wyoming (which already generally prohibits carrying a firearm into a courtroom) unsuccessfully tried to expand the restriction to the entirety of the courthouse. The bill failed. When a local judge later in 2012 tried to issue an order for such a courthouse ban, the local county commissioners opposed the effort and the 2013 legislature has moved to try and preempt any future efforts in that direction by specifying a ban applies only to the precise courtroom itself.

Several states already attempt to split the courtroom/courthouse distinction. For example Missouri (§ 571.107 R.S.Mo.) bans firearms generally (and in the same section specifically exempts judges from the ban) in

“Any courthouse solely occupied by the circuit, appellate or supreme court, or any courtrooms, administrative offices, libraries or other rooms of any such court whether or not such court solely occupies the building in question…The.. supreme court… may by rule..prohibit or limit the carrying of concealed firearms by endorsement holders in that portion of a building owned, leased or controlled by that unit of government. (emphasis added)

This is on top of the pressure some judges are putting on legislatures to specifically allow them to carry into their own courtrooms (see here).

2013 is already seeing the interest in the subject continuing, with activity in Wyoming and elsewhere.

Connecticut SB 120 Requires judicial marshals at courthouse entrances be armed. In Joint Committee on Judiciary.

Hawaii SB 262 Specifically prohibits carrying firearm into courthouses and courtrooms, except that judges may carry and determine who may carry in their own courtroom.

Hawaii SB 274 Specifically prohibits carrying firearm into courthouses and courtrooms, except that judges may carry and determine who may carry in their own courtroom.

Illinois HB 154 Specifically prohibits carrying firearm into courthouses and courtrooms (existing law already bans carrying into courthouses), except that judges may carry and determine who may carry in their own courtroom.

Indiana SB 97 Prohibits state agencies from banning the carrying of firearms generally into public buildings and places. Specifically authorizes state agency to enact and enforce prohibition on carrying of firearms in buildings that contain the state’s appellate courts (Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Tax Court).

Kansas HB 2055 Allows for a county government to ban the carrying of firearms into a county courthouse, but only if the county provides “Adequate security measures” defined as “as  electronic detection and personnel at public entrances to detect and restrict the carrying of any weapons into the facility.

Kansas HB 2111 Repeals statute allowing cities and counties from banning the carrying of firearms into a courthouse or courtroom.

Oklahoma HB 1723 Allows municipal judges to carry firearms into courthouses in the state.

Oklahoma SB 205 Authorizes handgun permit holders to bypass security when entering any state, city, or county facility if they present the permit and their driver’s license.

Oklahoma SB 840 Authorizes handgun permit holders to bypass security when entering any state, city, or county facility if they present the permit and their driver’s license.

Wyoming HB 216 Makes it a felony to carry a firearm into a courtroom (current law prohibits it but appears to provide no penalty). Provides presiding judge may carry weapon into courtroom and waive prohibition on carrying in the courtroom. Makes no mention of carrying into a courthouse.

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