Madison County Courthouse – Winterset, Iowa
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Madison County Courthouse – Winterset, Iowa

On June 19, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady issued a Supervisory Order banning weapons from courthouses. He wrote:

Under article V, section 4 of the Iowa Constitution, the Iowa Supreme Court is vested with the power to exercise supervisory and administrative control over Iowa’s district courts. With all power comes responsibility. With the power to supervise and administer courts comes the responsibility to promote safety in courthouses and court facilities….

….Accordingly, under our constitutional authority and responsibility to supervise and administer Iowa’s district courts, the supreme court now orders that all weapons are prohibited from courtrooms, court-controlled spaces, and public areas of courthouses and other justice centers occupied by the court system.

That is quite a loose interpretation their power considering counties, not the Judicial Branch operates the courthouses and justice centers with smaller counties often having their offices in county courthouses. It is one thing to ban them from courtrooms, as well as, ban state judicial branch employees from carrying while at work, but quite another to think they have authority over the entire building.

It also places counties in violation of Iowa Code and HF 517 which will go into effect on July 1.

The new law explicitly states:

A political subdivision of the state shall not enact anordinance regulating the ownership, possession, legal transfer, lawful transportation, registration, or licensing of firearms when the ownership, possession, transfer, or transportation is otherwise lawful under the laws of this state. An ordinance regulating firearms in violation of this section existing on or after April 5, 1990, is void.

Not only that but political subdivisions that ignore this open themselves up to lawsuits:

If a political subdivision of the state, prior to, on, or after July 1, 2017, adopts, makes, enacts, or amends any ordinance, measure, enactment, rule, resolution, motion, or policy regulating the ownership, possession, legal transfer, lawful transportation, registration, or licensing of firearms when the ownership, possession, transfer, transportation, registration, or license is otherwise lawful under the laws of this state, a person adversely affected by the ordinance, measure, enactment, rule, resolution, motion, or policy may file suit in the appropriate court for declaratory and injunctive relief for damages.

Currently, there are 72 counties that have some a courthouse gun ban:

Some counties are pushing back. Madison County has repealed their courthouse gun with the exception of the courtrooms in compliance with the new law. “With the Supreme Court order that was passed last week, they pretty much took that matter onto themselves, so we repealed ours, and we’re staying out of it,” Madison County Board of Supervisors Chair Phil Clifton said according to Iowa Public Radio.

Woodbury County Board of Supervisors also voted 3 to 1 to lift their courthouse gun ban that had been in existence since 2014. The motion brought by Matthew Ung, chairman of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors reads:

to lift the 2014 weapons ban policy and resolution where it applies to legally carried firearms, as provided by Iowa Code and House File 517, to request the Sheriff’s Office to continue to staff a single courthouse entrance with screening for lawful carry permits as exercised at the Iowa Capitol, and to direct the security committee to bring an amended policy or resolution before the board which complies with this motion.

Ung  said that Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew stated he was going to ignore the board’s motion and enforce the supervisory order instead.

Republican Sheriff Drew immediately delivered to me a letter saying he is “extremely disappointed that the Board of Supervisors has chosen to politicize this to protect their own political capital,” and vowing to enforce the court order banning all guns, rather than the Board of Supervisors’ authority based in law.

Guthrie County’s Board of Supervisors also met this week to discuss the Supreme Court’s order. The meeting minutes have not yet been released. The county currently does not have a courthouse gun ban.

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