Some Talking Points on Firearms in the Courthouse
March 9, 2016 § 12 Comments
- Security is a site-specific issue. Minimum security standards will always be governed by design, traffic, and countless other considerations specific to the site. Questions of the reasonableness of any particular security measure are not capable of being codified on a uniform basis and are best left to those who are charged with the protection of the courthouse and the conduct of proceedings in the courthouse.
- There are many good reasons for banning weapons in courthouse parking lots. In many counties, state inmates and county prisoners are transported by vans, by the dozens, to public courthouse parking areas and marched into the courtroom. This provides the opportunity for armed people to either assist in escape or exact vengeance if they are allowed to be armed in the parking lot.
- Sheriffs are charged with the safekeeping of prisoners and courthouse property. Judges are charged with the orderly administration of justice. Both should have the tools and flexibility to address situations that may arise.
- Some trial require extraordinary security measures. This bill is a blanket prohibition.
- Participants, including jurors, need to know that they are under the protection of the court the moment they enter court property.
- The legislature and other state offices enjoy point-of-entry security, as they should. County workers deserve the same sort of security in their very volatile workplaces.
- Clerks, deputy clerks, bailiffs, and other courthouse workers are often the intended targets of violent reprisals. The courthouse does not become “safe” merely because courtroom proceedings are not taking place.
- Many offices in the courthouse contain significant amounts of cash and are potential robbery targets.
- Historically, mixing armed citizens and criminal defendants has allowed some terrible things to occur in our state and many others.
- Local officials are elected and empowered to solve local problems. This bill attempts to remove from two other constitutional branches of government the power to carry out their respective duties. The legislature is not well-equipped to devise security measures for the many court facilities in this state.
Learned Chancellor Primeaux
I sounded in on this on our Chancery
Listserve with my email to those
various House Members representing
our 5 county 10th Chancery District.
I included Speaker Gunn and Rep.
Gipson (sponsor) also.
Likewise, I suggest we all share our
views with our Sheriffs and Boards
of Supervisors as well.
Safety and security in our courthouses
is the responsibility of Law Enforcement
and the Judiciary working in concert with
This Bill overreaches and invades
the separation of powers of our
Federal and State Constitutions.
It is not the province of the Legislature
to interpret the law by enacting a statute
that does just that.
Chancellor, Place 4
10th Chancery District
I am a Life Member of the NRA and a concealed carry permit holder, but feel that this proposed legislation is ridiculous. For many years our court house security in North Mississippi consisted of making the oldest living man in each county the court room bailiff. Some of these men were armed and some were unarmed. I always worried about an outbreak of violence at court. Several years ago an outburst took place in one of my cases after the chancellor issued a bench ruling in an emotional child custody case involving serious allegations of child abuse. When the chancellor awarded custody to my client, the mother and her new husband, who were large tough looking people, went wild in the courtroom and then downstairs in the lobby. They threatened to kill me, my client and the judge. All that we had for protection was an elderly unarmed bailiff with a walkie talkie to call for help. Luckily they left before anyone was harmed. However, I am confident that if these people had been armed with a gun that several people would have been killed, including me. I am hopeful that the members of the legislature are not so blindly “pro gun” that they pass this proposed legislation.
I, too, am a gun owner (not a permit holder, though), and I support gun rights. This proposal, however, defies reason. Anyone who has been in chancery court knows how volatile many situations can be. And these are not rare. What security is best for our courts should be left to the judges and sheriffs locally.
If I’m a cashier at the tax office in Gulfport, I’d be deeply concerned- place handles a lot of cash on a daily basis, has at least 10 folks working different stations at any given time, and it’s right by the side door of the courthouse. This bill is a train wreck on several levels.
The judge, jury, and litigants should feel as safe going to and from the court room as they do in it. You are not allowed to bring a knife, pepper spray, or a stun gun in to the courthouse. Why should you make an exception for a firearm? It’s ludicrous and just another example of this state putting the wishes of the lobbyists before the safety of the people.
Food for thought: http://www.cjesconsultants.com/assets/documents/CJES-JCVI-Disorder-in-the-Court-Incidents-IV.pdf
Excellent list. The legislature needs to leave court security issues to judges.
Courthouse security is an issue on which I think very reasonable people can differ. However, note that HB 571 does not change the existing law about firearms in courthouses or courtrooms. All it does is address point #3 below.
Here are a few additional points to consider:
1. The law allows enhanced concealed carriers – the people who have paid a fee, dealt with the bureaucratic hassle of filling out forms and being fingerprinted (which can take hours at the highway patrol office), passed a background check, AND taken a safety course – to carry into a courthouse. It does not allow them to carry into an active courtroom. Are these really the people we are worried about? Why not just follow the Legislature’s example of barring everyone but enhanced licensees from carrying in the courthouse? That is what the law provides.
2. If the parking lot is off limits then where are jurors, taxpayers, and others who have business in the courthouse (not the courtroom) supposed to park if they want to exercise their constitutional right to carry a firearm in their vehicle? How is this to be enforced anyway? Also, note that “The legislature and other state offices enjoy point-of-entry security” not point-of-parking security. See point #1 about how the Legislature deals with enjoy point-of-entry security.
3. The bill does not change the law except to deal with the situation of judges extending the definition of a “courtroom” to parts of the courthouse that clearly are not a courtroom. The sheriff is charged with security of the courthouse. If the judiciary has authority to regulate carry in the courthouse then why does the judiciary have to take a back-door approach by redefining the term “courthouse?” Shouldn’t the judiciary be setting the example for following the law?
The fact that a person goes through a background check does NOT mean they will never get “emotional” about a case involving him/her or a family member. Quite frequently, emotions run high during a court hearing and it is NO comfort that someone with a gun waiting outside the courthouse building went through a background check.
Judge Shirley, I agree that background checks do not prevent future violence. But, statistically, there are almost no crimes of violence committed by a trained concealed carrier. All risks cannot be eliminated. In your example the violence occurs outside the courthouse building so security measures inside the courthouse would be irrelevant. Those intent on murder are not dissuaded by signs saying guns are prohibited in the parking lot.
Mr Martz, various constitutional rights can’t be exercised however one likes. The right to free speech doesn’t entitle you to holler in a courthouse, & the right to worship doesn’t authorize you to conduct Mass there either.
This wicked obsession with gun “rights” is going to get innocent people killed. You appear not to care.
First, I care deeply about violence and its prevention so much so I’ve spent many, many hours and dollars studying the topic. I will dispute the claim that it is a “wicked obsession.”
Second, what this entire discussion seems to miss is that guns in courthouses are already legal for enhanced licensees. They have been since July 1, 2011. In the nearly five years since HB 506 there have been NO incidents of violence in a courthouse by an enhanced licensee. If there have been any incidents of violence by an enhanced licensee at all, anywhere, I do not know about it and neither does the DPS which administers firearm licenses. None of the courthouse violence we have seen can or would have have been prevented by what is being proposed (which is not even the topic of HB 571).
Finally, you are correct that no right is unlimited. There are already limits in place. If you do not agree with those limits then you are entitled to your opinion and to contact your representative.
My contact information is easily available if you wish to contact me off board to discuss this matter further.