Carrying guns into courthouses: Arkansas moving legislation, Texas debating, North Dakota rejected

Continuing a trend that’s been moving nationally over the last several years, efforts have been pressed in this legislative session to expand those people who are allowed to carry weapons into courthouses.

Arkansas

Current law (Arkansas Code § 5-73-306(5) & (6)) puts forth a general ban on concealed handgun permit holders carrying a firearm into a courthouse (5) or courtroom (6). Last week the Arkansas Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB 159, a plan to allow allows any county employee with a concealed carry permit to bring their gun into the courthouse that contains their primary place of employment. More than just the courthouse, the person would be permitted to carry into

Any courthouse, courthouse annex or other building owned, leased, or regularly used by a county for conducting court proceedings or housing a county office

The Arkansas Senate could vote on this proposal as early as today.

Meanwhile the Arkansas House approved earlier in March a more limited bill (HB 1626) that allows elected officials with a concealed carry permit to carry into courthouses. That bill was approved March 12 on an 80-4 vote.

North Dakota

Current law (62.1-02-05) makes it a crime to possess a firearm at a “public gathering” which includes courthouses and other “publicly owned or operated buildings.” HB 1157 as introduced would have permitted any elected official with a concealed weapons license to carry into such “publicly owned or operated buildings” with their weapon.

The House Judiciary Committee approved a modified version: the ban on handgun carrying would still apply but only in areas designated and made a “secured court facility”

“Secured court facility” means a building or portion of a building in which court proceedings occur and in which access is not permitted unless an individual passes through equipment that detects weapons and is staffed by armed security personnel.

The language is very similar to a Kansas law enacted a few years ago that used the term “adequate security” instead of “secured court facility.” The only way a court would be able to prohibit carrying weapons into a courthouse area was if there was the resources to provide for scanners and armed security. The amended bill was rejected by the House Judiciary Committee 5-8 but advanced to the full House, where it was rejected on a narrow 45-47 vote in February.

Texas

Texas Penal Code Sec. 46.03(a)(3) provides

A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a firearm, illegal knife, club, or prohibited weapon listed in Section 46.05(a)…on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court, unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the court.

Two bills on this subject, one of which is set for a hearing tomorrow, would provide exemptions to this restriction and allow county employees or officials to carry into the courthouses. Texas HB 2241 would allow a “county officer” or “county employee” to possess a firearm in a courthouse. The county officer would need to have a concealed handgun permit; a county employee would need both a permit and the permission from both the local governing body and the county officer who supervises the employee.

An alternative bill (HB 3007) would be limited to county and court clerks only that possess a concealed handgun permit. No additional permissions would be required.