Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal Jan. 18.
For the protection of those who work inside the building and for the public who conducts business there, the Woodbury County Courthouse — all of the Woodbury County Courthouse — should be free of guns.The idea of allowing guns in some areas of the courthouse, but not in others, is folly. How do you properly enforce that system? Once an individual with a gun is inside the building, who or what will stop him or her from going wherever he or she wants with the weapon, including areas considered off limits? Besides, why are all sections of the courthouse not deserving of the same level of security?
As we have said before in this space, the proper way to make the courthouse safe is a complete prohibition on guns.
This goal was met in 2014 when the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors banned guns in the courthouse and restricted access to one door staffed by security officers and equipment. However, passage of a package of gun-related proposals by the Legislature last year threw courthouse security into question.
As we predicted, a provision of the legislation stating an Iowan can sue any city, county or township that passes a firearm ban if the individual believes he or she is adversely affected by it had a chilling impact in Woodbury County. In June, the county board rescinded the courthouse gun ban in response to the bill.
Complicating matters further was an Iowa Supreme Court order in June banning weapons in “courtrooms, court-controlled spaces, and public areas of courthouses and other justice centers occupied by the court system.” Last month, the state Supreme Court issued a revision to the order under which local officials can make a written request to allow guns in areas of courthouses not controlled by the judicial system. Last week, the Woodbury County board voted to send a letter to Third Judicial District Chief Judge Duane Hoffmeyer requesting the public be allowed to carry guns into some areas of the courthouse.
One simple, reasonable solution to this craziness exists.
Due to the nature of the public business conducted within these buildings, no one besides law enforcement officers should be allowed to carry a gun inside a courthouse. It isn’t some egregious infringement of the Second Amendment to ask owners of guns to check weapons at the door to the Woodbury County Courthouse, do their business inside, then pick them up on their way out.
Only the Legislature can clean up the mess its new law created for Woodbury County and, likely, for other counties.
Lawmakers should pass a bill that gives local government bodies the legal right under state law to adopt a ban on weapons in public buildings. Once that measure takes effect, Woodbury County supervisors should reinstate a complete ban on guns in the courthouse.