SIOUX CITY -- Woodbury County supervisors will consider a measure Tuesday to reinstate a ban on guns in the Woodbury County Courthouse.
In a memo to the board, Supervisor Jeremy Taylor said it is not “practical” to enforce the prohibition in some areas, but not others of the eight-floor building at 620 Douglas St.
Taylor acknowledged that weeks of machinations in trying to comply with various elements of an expanded gun law in public buildings has proven to be too difficult, and further, it's not “the will of the public" to allow citizens with concealed carry permits to bring their weapons into the courthouse.
The board has taken a series of votes related to the issue since Iowa lawmakers approved an expanded gun rights bill in April 2017, and Iowa courts have issued a series of decisions on the issue. In December, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady reversed his earlier order banning guns in the courthouse, saying that after consultation with chief judges, sheriffs and other county officials, weapons could be taken to areas where there are no court functions.
Earlier this month, Duane Hoffmeyer, the chief judge of the Iowa Third Judicial District, expanded the areas of the courthouse where guns would be off limits to include the clerk of courts offices on the first floor and judicial branch offices on the sixth floor, as well as courtrooms, judge chambers and attorney offices on floors 2, 3 and 4.
Taylor said it's too difficult to practically proceed in the most recent setup, which allows guns on other areas of floors 1 and 6, and on floors 5, 7 and 8.
The courthouse has county departments mingled with court functions, which is complicating how Sheriff Dave Drew's office handles security. A week ago, Drew urged the supervisors to go back to a ban of guns in the courthouse, as enforcing the hodgepodge would require a new slew of workers who would have to monitor people from floor to floor, or within the same floor. Drew's office estimated that security costs would increase by $1 million to fund the additional personnel, as well as add security in two other county buildings.
"Given that those who would otherwise carry weapons would essentially be escorted (by security personnel)... I fail to continue believing that having some areas where carrying is allowed is practical, nor do I believe it is the will of the public," Taylor writes in the memo. "I do not believe that we should be so intractable as once having staked out a position to not be amenable or open to public input."
At the prior county supervisors meeting on Feb. 13, Drew verbally sparred primarily with Taylor on the issue, and two members of the public weighed in.
County board chair Rocky De Witt, a member of the courthouse security detail, said having guns in the courthouse is unpopular among many county residents.
"I have yet to find someone who is in favor of weapons in the courthouse," De Witt said. "I would be in favor of reinstating the weapons ban and letting the chips fall where they may."
Taylor's memo sets that up, in two agenda items for the Tuesday meeting.
The new law, among other things, broadens the state’s so-called stand-your-ground provision, so a law-abiding citizen does not have a duty to retreat in a public place before using deadly force when confronted with danger to life or property.