Feb 07 2012
In response to the dramatic rise in local courthouse violence across the nation—including a shooting in September at the Crawford County Courthouse that wounded a county employee and left the shooter dead—U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) joined U.S. Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) to introduced the Local Courthouse Safety Act to improve security at smaller courthouses.
Boozman is the lead Republican cosponsor of Franken's bill which was introduced today.
The legislation would address security concerns, like a lack of screening equipment and training at local courthouses, by giving courthouses access to the resources they need to improve security. Many local courthouses, especially in rural and suburban areas, lack even basic security measures like metal detectors.
"Unfortunately, in Arkansas, we are not strangers to courthouse violence," said Sen. Boozman. "Five months ago, a gunman walked in to the Crawford County Courthouse and opened fire. Law enforcement responded swiftly and appropriately, but they must have more help to stop this type of unnecessary violent attack from happening. By giving states the authority to use existing grant money to improve courthouse safety, and by eliminating bureaucratic red tape that stalls access to excess federal security equipment, like metal detectors and other screening tools, we can help prevent another tragedy from taking place at a local courthouse."
Last September, James Ray Palmer entered the Crawford County Courthouse with intentions of shooting the judge. The court was not in session and the judge was not there, so, according to police, Palmer began firing randomly shooting Vickie Jones, secretary of the circuit judge, in the leg. Palmer was shot and killed by the responding officers.
"Under no circumstances should our local sheriffs or court personnel have to put their lives at risk to ensure that the basic acts of our judicial system get carried out," said Sen. Franken. "My legislation will give courtrooms access to the basic resources they need to make sure that every Minnesotan's day in court is safe."
"I will never forget the tragic courthouse shooting we had in the Hennepin County Government Center and our resulting prosecution and enhanced security measures," said Sen. Klobuchar. "The recent shooting at the Cook County Courthouse demonstrates that more needs to be done to keep local courthouses safe and this bill will help improve security and prevent future violence."
The Local Courthouse Safety Act would:
- Provide local courts with access to security training;
- Give states authority to use existing grant money to improve courthouse security; and
- Cut through bureaucratic red tape, giving local courts access to excess federal security equipment, such as metal detectors and screening devices.