At least for today, the madness surrounding guns in the Woodbury County Courthouse is over.
In our view, Supervisors Rocky De Witt, Jeremy Taylor and Marty Pottebaum made the right decision at the board's Feb. 20 meeting when they voted to reinstate a ban on weapons throughout the courthouse. We scratch our heads at why Supervisors Matthew Ung and Keith Radig didn't join them.
Faced with either an inability to enforce a new policy of guns in some parts of the courthouse but not in others or spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide the security necessary to properly enforce it, De Witt, Taylor and Pottebaum acted prudently and returned to the old policy. The original policy of no guns in the courthouse was implemented in 2014, but it was thrown into question last year when the Legislature passed an expansion of gun rights.
As we predicted, the package of gun-related measures had a chilling impact in Woodbury County.
In June, the Board of Supervisors rescinded the courthouse gun ban in response to the bill. Complicating matters further was an Iowa Supreme Court order in June banning weapons in "courtrooms, court-controlled spaces, and public areas of courthouses and other justice centers occupied by the court system." In December, the state Supreme Court issued a revision to the order under which local officials can make a written request to allow guns in areas of courthouses not controlled by the judicial system. In response, the county board in January voted to send a letter to Third Judicial District Chief Judge Duane Hoffmeyer requesting the public be allowed to carry guns into some areas of the courthouse. Then, finally, Sheriff Dave Drew last month presented the supervisors with an expensive projection of costs for security under the new plan.
Absurd is how we describe the excessive amount of time and discussion county leaders have devoted to this issue over the last eight months.
As we have said before, for the protection of those who work inside the building and for the public who conducts business there, we believe the Woodbury County Courthouse - all of the Woodbury County Courthouse - should be free of guns. No one besides law enforcement officers should be allowed to carry a gun inside a courthouse. It isn't some egregious infringement of the Second Amendment to ask owners of guns to check weapons at the door to a courthouse, do their business inside, then pick them up on their way out.
What do we wish to see happen next in the wake of last week’s Woodbury County board decision?
In the name of public safety and local control and to clear up whatever confusion and uncertainty its 2017 gun legislation created for cities and counties, lawmakers should make clear government bodies have the legal right under Iowa law to adopt a ban on weapons in public buildings, like the one in place for the Woodbury County Courthouse.