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'The last thing we need' | Kentucky lawmakers, judges urge Beshear to veto HB 690

If passed, any attorney in the commonwealth would be allowed to carry firearms anywhere in Kentucky without restriction, including inside courtrooms.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Leaders who work in Kentucky's court system gathered Monday to speak out against an amendment added to House Bill 690, which would allow attorneys in the state to carry a gun in the courtroom.

The bill as originally written defined the roles of the Judicial Court. An amendment added on March 25 added the Attorney General and any attorney licensed to practice law in the state to the list of people allowed to carry firearms inside the courthouse. That list currently includes the Commonwealth's Attorney, county attorneys and judges.

The bill with the amendment was passed in both chambers with only one no vote.

Senator Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) led Monday's discussion, calling for Governor Andy Beshear to veto the bill as it could cause dangerous situations in state courtrooms.

Other court officials agreed, questioning the need for armed attorneys.

"I've served as a prosecutor, as a criminal defense attorney, and in neither of those roles could I ever see the need to have carried a weapon into the courtroom," said Circuit Court judge Jessica Green. "There are trained staff that is there to deal with these issues."

District Court Judge and former police officer David Boles said a courthouse is often a place filled with high emotions, so the presence of weapons could lead to unintended consequences.

"Imagine a responsible criminal defense lawyer who is armed sitting next to his client in court. Now imagine the client overpowering his lawyer, taking his firearm, and creating a deadly encounter inside the courtroom," said Judge Boles. 

"Imagine that for a moment... it's not unbelievable and it's not impossible that that would happen," he said.

Judge Boles said that during his 20-year career as a police officer he learned that any time an armed individual is near another person, it has the potential to become a deadly situation.

"The last thing we need is guns in the courthouse," he said.

Senator Johnnie Turner (R-Harlan), who added the amendment to House Bill 690, said in a statement that the bill allows attorneys to follow the same practices as officers of the court.

"Licensed attorneys in good standing with the Kentucky State Bar Association should be awarded the same rights and protections as other officers of the court," he said in the statement.

Gov. Beshear has the opportunity to veto bills until April 12 before lawmakers return to Frankfort to close out the legislative session. Since there is a Republican supermajority in the Kentucky General Assembly, many of Beshear's early vetoes could easily be overridden.

Any bills passed during the last two days of the session can still be vetoed by Beshear, but those vetoes cannot be overturned.

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