Topeka — Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman thinks allowing prosecutors to carry concealed guns in county courthouses could give them an added measure of protection if they ever needed it.
And on Thursday, the Senate voted 39-0 for a bill that would let county, state and federal prosecutors — including Attorney General Steve Six and his assistants — carry concealed guns into county courthouses.
“The courthouse is our workplace where we come in contact with people who pose us the greatest threat,” said Gorman, who has been prosecuting criminals in Kansas City, Kan., for 28 years.
There was no debate in the Senate. The measure now goes to the House, where Majority Leader Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, said he thought it would have “a pretty good chance.”
Gorman, who has received several written death threats over the years, said he works in two courthouse buildings and he and his staff often walk between them. “We’re out in exposed areas, not behind a locked door,” he said.
He recalled that several years ago, he was standing in line at a mall with his wife and daughter waiting to see Santa Claus when he spotted the family of a man he convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
When Gorman saw them talking among themselves, he left with his family.
“It was time to get away, but I could have been in a position where they saw me before I saw them,” he said.
In Lawrence, though, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said he didn’t think the move was necessary, given the court security guards stationed at the entrance to the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.
“We’ve not had any problems since the installation of the security at the front of the building,” Branson said. “I think our courthouse is pretty safe. We have the metal detectors people pass through. They can be hand checked with a wand, belongings such as backpacks and briefcases can be examined. I don’t see the necessity.”
Prosecutors wanting to carry a concealed gun would have to complete firearms training.
Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, who handled the bill, said it was limited to courthouses, although prosecutors could carry a concealed gun wherever else the law allowed it.
A 2006 state law authorized concealed carry by qualified Kansans who obtain permits. The measure specifically bans concealed guns in courthouses — with no exceptions for prosecutors — and in several other locations such as schools, churches and polling places. Violations in some of the off-limits sites can be prosecuted only if signs are posted, and businesses also can post signs saying no guns are allowed.
“Prosecutors are treated more like private citizens even though they function more like law enforcement officers,” said Schmidt, an Independence Republican.
The bill would require prosecutors to obtain concealed gun permits, as 15,783 Kansans already have done, and to undergo additional firearms training set up by the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.
The concealed gun permit costs $150 and is valid for four years after it’s issued by the attorney general’s office.