DA asks for limits on guns in court

August 26, 2008 11:08:54 AM PDT
Harris County District Attorney Ken Magidson is asking the state if he can restrict which prosecutors can carry handguns into courtrooms despite a recent law that allows them to carry firearms there. A 2007 law allows prosecutors with concealed handgun licenses to pack their pistols anywhere except jails or prisons. They also are prohibited from carrying while intoxicated.

But anybody who works for Magidson is required, as a condition of employment, to obtain his permission to carry a firearm into a courtroom. Magidson's predecessor, Chuck Rosenthal, prohibited prosecutors from taking firearms into courtrooms.

Magidson said he allows only prosecutors "who have demonstrated a high level of proficiency to a certified firearms instructor on my staff" to take handguns into court.

The Harris County district attorney is asking for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to issue on an opinion on whether he can continue this policy despite the 2007 law.

"While it may now be legal for a prosecutor to carry a licensed concealed handgun in a courtroom, I retain significant concerns with regard to the level of training that should be required in order to permit prosecutors to safely carry firearms in the volatile environment of a criminal courthouse," Magidson said in a letter sent earlier this month to Abbott.

Magidson, who contends the new law doesn't restrict his ability as an employer to impose his own requirements on employees, is asking for an opinion because one of his prosecutors questioned the legality of his policy.

Harris County prosecutors who have concealed handgun licenses can carry their weapons in the district attorney's offices and unrestricted areas of county buildings.

Rob Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, said his group didn't seek the 2007 changes. He said as far as he knew they had become an issue only in Harris, Fort Bend and El Paso counties but didn't know how any disputes were resolved.

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