New Arkansas Law Could Allow Firearms Inside Court Houses

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ARKANSAS (KFSM) - A new law that went into effect Wednesday (July 22) could allow guns into county buildings across the state, including inside court houses.

Before the new amendment, only law enforcement officers and federal officials could bring firearms into county facilities.

Now, if a county quorum court approves their own legislation, the right to conceal carry can be extended to county employees and county-wide elected officials.

Washington County Justice of the Peace Eva Madison said she hadn’t heard of anyone on the court who wanted to allow guns in county buildings.

However, she said she wouldn’t be surprised if a few of her colleagues were for it.

"I think this is an area where we should really defer to our sheriff,” Madison said. “I think law enforcement knows best on how to secure and protect our buildings.”

Madison, and Washington County Sheriff’s Office Administrative Captain Steve Whitmill, both said they’re concerned about county officials who are legally carrying, but are involved in a personal case.

"When they are coming not to work, but to court, that day, what is going to happen in those instances?” Whitmill said.

"Lawsuits get heated. Do you really want people in your audience armed?” Madison said. “I wouldn't want that if I were the judge.”

"Those are very sensitive situations,” Whitmill said. “And, obviously you want somebody, one side or the other, carrying a gun your situation like that when tempers are high.”

Meanwhile, deputies who secure county buildings will continue to keep guns from getting inside until the quorum court decides otherwise.

Some said they’re glad each county can make that call for itself.

"[If guns are allowed in the future] there’s nothing that we can do about that, we're just going to have to allow that to happen," Whitmill said. “Not every courthouse is exactly the same. And not every county is comprised of the same folks.”

5NEWS also spoke to Benton County Judge Bob Clinard, who said his county hasn’t discussed making any changes yet.

However, he added he has a concealed carry licenses, and would consider carrying a firearm to the office if he was allowed.