States Debate Allowing Guns in Courthouses

Arkansas and Oklahoma this year expanded the right to bear arms to court buildings, Oppoents of the idea cite violent incidents in several states, when gunmen opened fire on estranged relatives.

The debate over where Americans can carry guns has landed at the courthouse. This year, Arkansas and Oklahoma legislators  expanded the right to bear arms to court buildings, for state employees or elected officials, the Wall Street Journal reports. A pending Ohio bill would allow gun owners with concealed-carry permits to come armed into courthouses and other gun-free zones without facing criminal charges. Under the measure, approved by the House of Representatives last week, gun owners caught carrying weapons inside court buildings would be subject only to removal from the premises. While many county courthouses have metal detectors at entrances, security can be less tight in rural courthouses.

Since 2013, more than a dozen mostly Republican-led states have considered measures easing courthouse restrictions. Guns generally are banned inside individual courtrooms. Proponents of eased laws say they are about securing the rights of law-abiding gun owners to protect themselves in public places. More expansive bills have met resistance from people concerned that allowing firearms in courthouses would invite trouble. There has been violence inside and outside courthouses in recent years, including shooting incidents in Delaware, Texas and South Carolina in which gunmen opened fire at estranged relatives. In an attack near Dallas a prosecutor was targeted. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on what degree the right to bear arms might extend to carrying concealed weapons into public places.