Banning guns in courtrooms

Published 9:38 am Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Mississippi Supreme Court will soon hear a case over whether judges can ban guns from courthouses.

The short answer is yes, they can. All that is necessary for the state’s high court to reach that conclusion is concur with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June, a 7-2 vote that upheld a lower court order that limited where guns are allowed.

The Supreme Court correctly held that there are some places where guns simply do not belong. Courthouses are often emotionally-charged venues. It is common for witnesses and defendants to be near each other.

Email newsletter signup

Even in noncriminal cases, the emotions can, and sometimes do, lead to violence. To introduce a firearm into these potentially volatile environments is like lighting a fuse to dynamite.

This is no assault on the 2nd Amendment, nor is it a matter of liberal vs. conservative attitudes on guns.

Mississippi passed a law in 2011 that allows guns in courthouses for those with enhanced concealed carry permits in courthouses, although it does not prohibit judges from banning guns in their courtrooms.

The chancery judges for the district that includes Lowndes County responded by issuing a ruling that the ban on guns applies to all areas within 200 feet of the courtroom, a ruling that is being challenged by Rick Ward of Collins, a firearms training instructor and gun rights advocate, who is being supported by the NRA.

Ward’s position seeks to circumvent the purpose of the ban by challenging whether judges have the authority to enforce bans beyond the courtrooms themselves. That is a distraction. The bottom line is that whoever ultimately has that authority must recognize the inherent danger of allowing firearms in our courthouses.

–The Commercial Dispatch