County to seek legal advice on need for courthouse firearms ban

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By Dave Taylor

A discussion over the need for an ordinance to ban firearms from the Trimble County Courthouse and other county-owned facilities consumed much of Fiscal Courth’s meeting March 21.

The issue was raised in letters written to the county by Circuit Judge Karen Conrad and Trimble County Attorney Perry Arnold, whose review of Kentucky statutes revealed a surprising loophole.

“There is a provision in the Concealed Carry statute prohibiting anyone, even with a concealed carry license, from bringing a weapon into a building that is occupied solely by the Court of Justice,” Arnold’s letter stated.

Judge-Executive Randy Stevens told the court that Arnold determined the statute doesn’t apply, “since our building isn’t solely occupied by the court of justice, It has the sheriff and the county clerk in there, so maybe it’s permissible to carry a concealed weapon in our courthouse or our courtroom. That shouldn’t be. We agree with that.”

In an interview with The Trimble Banner, Stevens said he doesn’t think it’s the role of fiscal court or any local government entity to be discuss any kind of gun control.

The problem has “been brought to us by two people who hold law degrees,” he said. “Both work in the judicial system and we can’t turn a blind eye or ear to it. Sometimes by recognizing a threat, if you don’t do enough to mitigate it, you might assume liability, and we don’t want to take on that role.”

Arnold said he and Conrad have discussed concerns over the Trimble facility. Conrad “indicated a gentleman from Shelby County has written a letter protesting signs prohibiting weapons in the Trimble and Henry county courthouses.

“After discussing the matter with Judge Conrad, I realized we have other agencies, in buildings other than the courthouse, where some irate person might bring in a gun or other weapon,” Arnold’s letter stated.

Passing a weapons ordinance doesn’t ensure courthouse and courtroom safety, Stevens said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody’s going to behave and be good. I wanted to make sure the minutes reflected that I didn’t pretend that passing any ordinance, by no means, alleviated all the risk to people who go to the courthouse, work in the courthouse or would need to frequent it for any reason. An ordinance isn’t a cure.”

The discussion brought awareness to the magistrates that “there is some level of vulnerability in this courthouse,” Stevens said.

Arnold had also encouraged the court to take a look at prohibiting weapons in all county-occupied buildings and possibly at the county park.

The court plans to seek further legal advice before proceeding further, Stevens said. The consensus among the magistrates was that they might be amenable to such an ordinance, but they want to have more legal input on how the state statute applies to a courthouse that’s occupied also by non-court entities.

“We’ll probably approach it in the same manner as the state law does,” Stevens said. “We don’t want to be more prohibitive, that’s for sure. It doesn’t put up metal detectors in every door. It doesn’t assign armed guards to every entrance, nor could Trimble County afford to go there, financially.”