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Pierce County studies courthouse security; leaves new weapons policy on hold for now

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on June 15, 2010 at 10:48 am with 5 Comments »
June 15, 2010 10:48 am

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy asked State Rep. Chris Hurst (D-Enumclaw) Monday to study a state law requiring county officials to take knives and other dangerous weapons into safekeeping while their owners visit courthouses.

In the meantime, a safety committee is reviewing plans to increase security at the county’s three courthouses in compliance with state law, McCarthy said.

County officials announced earlier this month they would no longer hold Mace, knives, clubs, flammable liquids, toy guns or replicas, handcuffs or handcuff keys and a long list of other objects for visitors.

There is an exception, under state law, for guns, which can be checked at the door. But that exception also applies to other kinds of weapons.

It’s long been a practice to receipt guns, knives and similar items that are banned from the courthouse and allow their owners to retrieve them on the way out.

The county’s new security procedures were designed to increase courthouse safety and make the visitor screening process less costly and more efficient, McCarthy said.

People entering the busy County-City Building in Downtown Tacoma and other courthouses are subject to airport-style scrutiny, which includes walking through a metal detector and putting your bags on an X-ray machine conveyor belt.

You can read about courthouse screening procedures here.

The new rules were to take effect on Wednesday.

But McCarthy put the plan on hold indefinitely and ordered more study after The News Tribune pointed out that state law – RCW 9.41.300 – directs officials to “receive weapons for safekeeping, during the owner’s visit to restricted areas of the building.”

That portion of the Revised Code of Washington defines weapons as “any firearm, explosive (as defined in another part of the law), or any weapon of the kind usually known as slung shot, sand club, or metal knuckles, or any knife, dagger, dirk, or similar weapon that is capable of causing death or bodily injury and is commonly used with the intent to cause death or bodily injury.”

The county doesn’t intend to run afoul of state law but it does want to make the courthouse safe, and officials believe visitors ought to leave weapons in their cars or at home when they have business at the County-City Building or any other court facility, security manager Mike Dorman said last week.

The County-City Building houses Superior, Municipal, District and family courts as well as a number of other legal services. It’s also home to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and it’s the seat of Pierce County government.

The county also runs a Juvenile Court at Remann Hall and a District Court at South 96th and South Hosmer streets.

Hurst couldn’t be reached for comment this morning. He is a former police detective who often champions public safety issues in the Legislature.

McCarthy said Monday evening she hopes people visiting courthouses will use common sense when visiting and not arrive with items that are banned from the buildings and must be left at the door.

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. gogoDawgs says:

    Well so far they are listening. I have written several letters to the executive, and city and county council. All as that citizens ask is that they abide by the laws of the state of Washington. While safety is a concern, it is foremost MY concern for MY safety when visiting the county-city building. I am responsible for my safety from my home to the building. If someone has to take the bus or be dropped off at the courthouse they do not have the option of leaving a self defense tool (pepper spray, firearm, etc). Furthermore, it is the LAW (RCW 9.41.300) that my right to protect myself is not impaired (Also, see Washington State Constitution Aticle I Section 24).

    Shouldn’t the woman being stalked and harrased have the right to defend herself after she files for a protective order at the courthouse? The police are not going to giver her a ride home, nor personally protect her 24 hours a day!

  2. tubbythetuba says:

    I believe that concealed weapons are not allowed ONLY in the secure areas of the Building…..this does not include the front door or most offices and floors. We have enough of our rights taken away, so don’t embellish the already too strict rules.

  3. tubbythetuba says:

    This is what I was talking about: *snip*

    RCW 9.41.300
    Weapons prohibited in certain places — Local laws and ordinances — Exceptions — Penalty.

    (1) It is unlawful for any person to enter the following places when he or she knowingly possesses or knowingly has under his or her control a weapon:

    (a) The restricted access areas of a jail, or of a law enforcement facility, or any place used for the confinement of a person (i) arrested for, charged with, or convicted of an offense, (ii) held for extradition or as a material witness, or (iii) otherwise confined pursuant to an order of a court, except an order under chapter 13.32A or 13.34 RCW. Restricted access areas do not include common areas of egress or ingress open to the general public;

    (b) Those areas in any building which are used in connection with court proceedings, including courtrooms, jury rooms, judge’s chambers, offices and areas used to conduct court business, waiting areas, and corridors adjacent to areas used in connection with court proceedings. The restricted areas do not include common areas of ingress and egress to the building that is used in connection with court proceedings, when it is possible to protect court areas without restricting ingress and egress to the building. The restricted areas shall be the minimum necessary to fulfill the objective of this subsection (1)(b).

    As you can clearly see, taking weapons at the front door is not lawful.

  4. tubbythetuba says:

    Also, be aware that the Open Carry of a handgun is permitted by persons leagally able to possess a handgun WITHOUT a concealed pistol permit.

  5. gogoDawgs says:

    @tubby,

    I spoke at the county council meeting this afternoon. I did so from the point of a person who open carries everyday. I agree that the building is already NOT in compliance with the law. They already restrict to much of the building and ask for my CPL when checking my firearm. I will continue to put pressure on them to follow the law.

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