Bills to allow more guns into courthouses advance in six states

A litany of legislation has been introduced in the 2013 to allow more people to carry firearms into U.S. state courthouses. Today I’ll be looking at the bills that have moved or are moving in this regard.

Arizona

Current law in Arizona leaves the question of carrying of weapons to the presiding judge of the particular court, with some exceptions. One in particular is that a peace officer or retired peace officer may only carry if a) they have the presiding judge’s permission or b) they are in the court to provide court security or respond to an emergency (A.R.S. § 38-1102)

HB 2516 Effectively removes the presiding judge’s authority in this area and specifically allows peace officers acting in an official capacity and carrying official peace officer identification to carry firearms in court. A floor amendment added a proviso: a presiding judge may establish rules or policies consistent with the new law enforcement carry authorization provision “for the protection of the court”.

The bill as amended was approved by the full House on February 28 and the Senate Judiciary Committee March 11.

Georgia

I mentioned a few weeks ago the situation in Georgia; by law, firearms are not generally permitted inside the state’s courthouses and there is a specific crime of carrying in a courthouse (O.C.G.A. § 16-11-127(b)(2)), but there are 16 categorical exceptions for people like law enforcement, certain judges, certain retired judges, prosecutors, etc.

HB 512 would effectively allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry into a courthouse UNLESS the court provided security screening at the doorway. Specifically, it provides

A license holder shall be authorized to carry a weapon in a government building or courthouse where ingress into such building or courthouse is not restricted or screened by security personnel during the hours the government building or courthouse is open for business. A person who is not a license holder and who attempts to enter a government building or courthouse with a weapon shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. A person who enters or attempts to enter a government building or courthouse where ingress is restricted or screened by security personnel shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; provided, however, that a person who exits such building or courthouse or leaves such location upon his or her observation that such building or courthouse has security personnel restricting or screening ingress into such building or courthouse shall not be guilty of violating this subsection

HB 512 was met with surprise by judges, who have now come out in opposition. Despite the protest by judges, the bill was approved by the full House on March 7.

In addition to HB 512, HB 60 amends an existing categorical exemption and would allow all retired state and federal judges to carry. It was approved by the full House February 13.

Kansas

Like Georgia, Kansas provides a general prohibition and a specific crime of carrying of firearms into courthouses, with specific exception for certain judges and some others (K.S.A. § 21-6309 & 75-7c10).

HB 2055, echoing Georgia’s language, would effectively allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to enter a courthouse unless the court provides “adequate security” defined as screening at the front door.

“Adequate security measures” means the use of electronic equipment and personnel at public entrances to detect and restrict the carrying of any weapons into the state or municipal building, including, but not limited to, metal detectors, metal detector wands or any other equipment used for similar purposes to ensure that weapons are not permitted to be carried into such building by members of the public.

An amendment to re-establish the ban on courthouse carrying failed 60-61 on the House floor.

North Dakota

Existing law makes it a crime to carry a weapon into “publicly owned or operated buildings”, including courthouses, with several exceptions for certain judges, law enforcement, etc. (North Dakota Code 62.1-02-05)

Like the other bills, HB 1366 would effectively allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to enter a courthouse.

Unlike the Georgia and Kansas bills, there is no exception for instances where the court provides screening at the door. Also unlike the other bills, this one would appear to allow out-of-state residents to carry in to North Dakota courthouses.

This section [prohibiting carrying into “publicly owned or operated buildings”] does not apply to…An individual possessing a valid concealed weapons license from this state or who has reciprocity under section 62.1-04-03.1 authorizing the individual to carry a firearm concealed…

HB 1366 was approved by the full House February 27 and has a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee March 19.

Another North Dakota bill (SB 2145) would allow all municipal court judges in the state to carry firearms into their courthouses (currently, only municipal court judges who are licensed attorneys may do so). SB 2145 was approved by the full Senate on January 23 and is set for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on March 20.

Oklahoma

Existing law (21 Okl. St. § 1277) provides a general ban on carrying firearms into a “structure, building, or office space which is owned or leased by a city, town, county, state, or federal governmental authority for the purpose of conducting business with the public” such as a courthouse.  There are categorical exemptions for judges, law enforcement, etc.

HB 1723 as introduced expands the list of judges who may carry into a courthouse to include municipal court judges. As amended however, the bill goes farther, allowing peace officers on active duty to carry their weapons anywhere in the state and making other changes to where and when off-duty peace officers may carry. The bill, as amended, was approved by the full House March 14.

Wyoming

State law (Wyo. Stat. § 6-8-104) provides a concealed carry permit does not allow a person to carry into “any courtroom, except that nothing in this section shall preclude a judge from carrying a concealed weapon or determining who will carry a concealed weapon in the courtroom”. There is no specific penalty for violation of this provision. In 2012, a local judge issued an administrative order banning all weapons from the courthouse, not just his courtroom.

HB 216, was introduced to make it a felony to carry a firearm into a courtroom, provides a presiding judge may carry a weapon into courtroom and waive the prohibition on carrying in the courtroom. The bill, however, makes no mention of carrying into a courthouse and proponents are  clear they intended the bill to continue to allow for courthouse carrying.

 

One thought on “Bills to allow more guns into courthouses advance in six states”

Comments are closed.