Under what conditions/provisions should active and retired judges be allowed to carry firearms? South Carolina and Virginia debating plans to expand where and when judges can carry guns

Many states permit the judges of their courts to carry firearms without a permit and/or into places that the general public could not possess a firearm. Georgia, for example, enacted in 2014 an expansion in the number and types of retired judges who could carry (HB 60). Now legislatures in South Carolina and Virginia are debating where, when, and how active and retired judges should be allowed to carry weapons.

South Carolina: Present law (21-31-240) allows active judges and justices who possess a concealed carry permit the ability to “carry a concealable weapon anywhere within this State, when carrying out the duties of their office.” SB 1023 of 2016 would replace “active” with “active or retired” and drop the “carrying out the duties” language.

SB 1023 has been filed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Virginia: Present law (18.2-308) details the state’s concealed carry permit process and then lists those who are not required to obtain such a permit in order to carry anywhere in the state. HB 332 (as introduced) and the identical SB 544 would add both active and retired judges to the list.

Except as provided in subsection A of ยง 18.2-308.012, [carrying a concealed handgun while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs] this section shall not apply to…Any judge or retired judge of the Commonwealth, wherever such judge may travel in the Commonwealth.

At this point however the chambers are split. The Senate approved 40-0 this original language; SB 544 is now pending in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

The House on the other hand adopted amended language for HB 332 that tied carrying closer to the discharge of judges’ official duties or while in transit to them.

This section shall also not apply to any of the following individuals while in the discharge of their official duties, or while in transit to or from such duties…in addition to the provisions of subdivision D 3, any judge, justice, or retired judge or justice of the Commonwealth who possesses a valid concealed handgun permit may carry a concealed handgun wherever such judge or justice may travel in the Commonwealth.

The House language was approved 97-0 on February 3; media coverage here. The bill was sent to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.