Judges Authorize Themselves To Carry Weapons

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Several judges in southeastern Ohio are giving themselves permission to carry guns both inside and outside of the courtroom.

Four judges on the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals issued a court order last week exempting themselves from having to obtain firearms training and a concealed carry permit.

The order, signed by Presiding Judge Peter Abele, Administrative judge Maria Hoover, Judge William Harsha and Judge Matthew McFarland, stated that the protection of a judge outside their usual work hours and outside the courthouse is critical.

“A judge may authorize himself or herself to carry a concealed deadly weapon, firearm, or non-lethal weapon for defensive purposes as he or she deems appropriate,” the order reads. “The court shall provide judicial credentials to each judge. A judge need not journalize his or her authority to carry a concealed weapon.”

Timm Fautsko, Principle Court Management Consultant for the National Center for State Courts, said judges carrying weapons without permits is not a national trend.

“This may well be a first, in my experience,” Fautsko said. “Usually only courtroom security will carry weapons. I’ve never heard of judges carrying a handgun without a permit.”

Fautsko said he recognizes that court safety is an important and difficult situation.

“Judges do not have adequate and full security. They are often threatened out of anger from defendants. Probate and mental health courts prove to be even more dangerous.”

According to incident data gathered by the Center for Judicial and Executive Security, the number of security threats and violent incidents in court buildings has increased.

A report from the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for State Courts counts 209 violent courthouse incidents since 2012.

While security threats and violent incidents are on the rise, available funding from state and local governments for security staffing and equipment to protect courts is coming increasingly limited.

Although Fautsko recognizes the right for judges to carry guns, he does not think judges carrying guns is the best practice.

“Anyone carrying a weapon needs to get certified and properly trained. If a judge wants to use a weapon, they need to get certified and properly trained in order to use it.”

In order for an Ohio citizen to carry a concealed firearm, they must provide proof of competency certification, which includes a firearms safety course, 10 hours of certified educational training, and two hours of practical training. They must also pay a $67 non-refundable application fee.

The appellate court’s order last week requires its four judges to secretly inform the county sheriff when they plan to show up with a gun.

The Ohio Attorney General does not allow citizens to carry handguns into a number of locations, including courthouses, police stations, places of worship, universities, and airports.