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Archive for Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New law allows prosecutors to carry guns in court

July 8, 2009

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New law aims to protect prosecutors

A new law was passed allowing prosecutors and courtroom staff to carry guns on the job. Supporters of the law say it will help protect the prosecutors. Enlarge video

— A new Kansas law allows prosecutors to carry concealed guns into court buildings and courtrooms if county officials allow it, but at least a few are saying no.

The law, which took effect last week, is an exception to a ban on people other than law enforcement carrying concealed guns into court buildings. A 2006 law allows Kansans to obtain concealed carry permits, with some restrictions on where.

The new state law applies to county and federal prosecutors and the attorney general and his staff. Deputy or assistant prosecutors must receive bosses’ permission. Counties, however, are allowed to set their own policies on prosecutors and courthouses.

Officials in Johnson and Shawnee counties have decided against allowing concealed carry. Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman said his staff won’t be taking guns into courtrooms.

“We’re not big about carrying them into the courthouse other than carrying them from the car to the office and locking them in a drawer,” Gorman said.

In Douglas County, only court security officers will be allowed to carry guns into the courtroom.

Backers of the law said it would allow prosecutors to better protect themselves. A survey of 127 county court buildings in 2006 and 2007 found that only 14 of them had controlled entrances.

Gorman said some of his staffers are more concerned about having guns for protection outside court.

“We serve search warrants for drugs at all hours,” Gorman said. “We had nine homicides last week and we had prosecutors at every one.”

The new law requires prosecutors who want to carry concealed weapons on duty to obtain a state permit and undergo additional training. In return, they’d receive limited immunity from lawsuits.

“We’re not saying, ‘Just strap it on and go,’“ Gorman said.

The Shawnee County Commission decided in May against allowing District Attorney Chad Taylor or his staff to carry concealed guns in the courthouse, concluding security was sufficient.

In Johnson County, presiding District Court Judge Stephen Tatum took the same view in issuing an order forbidding all guns in his courthouse except for court security.

“You do meet some irascible people,” Tatum said, “but we have good security.”

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