Even though Judge-Executive Bobby Carpenter deemed the move “crazy” and expressed serious concerns about it, the Greenup County Fiscal Court on Tuesday voted to void legislation the county might have on the books aimed at keeping people from bringing firearms into the courthouse.
It was necessary for the fiscal court to do so to keep the county in compliance with a new state law, Carpenter said.
The law, House Bill 500, prohibits city and county governments from passing firearms regulations that are more stringent than state laws. In effect, what that means is the county cannot prohibit people from bringing weapons into the courthouse, Carpenter said.
“It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of (the General Assembly) doing, but they did it,” he said. “So, we’re going to do this, even though we don’t agree with it. “
People who bring guns into the courthouse will still be subject to the restrictions of state law, Carpenter said. For example, a person carrying a concealed weapon without a permit to do could still be charged with a crime for doing so. However, people can carry openly without any sort of restrictions, he said.
Carpenter said it wasn’t even clear whether the county had an official ordinance on the books dealing with guns in the courthouse.
“It’s just been a standing rule that if you come in here with a gun, the sheriff’s going to take you out,” he said.
Further complicating matters, Carpenter said, is the fact Kentucky law still gives judges the power to set firearms regulations for areas of the courthouse that house offices of the state judiciary. That means, theoretically, someone could walk into the office of the sheriff or the judge-executive without running afoul of the law, but not into Family Court Judge Jeff Preston’s courtroom, which is on the third floor of the courthouse.
Guns also will remain off-limits in the county courthouse annex, which houses the district and circuit courts, along with the office of Circuit Court Clerk Allen Reed.
House Bill 500, sponsored by Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, was approved by the House and Senate in March, and signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear the following month. The legislation was supported by the National Rifle Association.
“HB 500 mandates consistent statewide regulations pertaining to firearms and ammunition and prevents a rights-infringing patchwork of local ordinances,” an article on the NRA’s website states.
But Carpenter said he said he had serious misgivings about the county having to give up its right to restrict fireams in the courthouse.
“Hopefully, it won’t be a problem,” he said.
KENNETH HART can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2654.