UPDATE: Will New Law Require Iowa Courthouses To Be Gun-Friendly?

Lyon Courthouse SVA

Northwest Iowa — Last week we told you about a couple of the counties in our area, and how they plan to keep courthouse security inline with the new Omnibus Firearms Law that was signed into law last week by Governor Terry Branstad.

Monday morning we talked to O’Brien County Sheriff Allen Schuknecht, who, coincidentally, was in Des Moines taking a class on the new gun laws.

Scheknecht tells KIWA that, currently, the only portion of the O’Brien County Courthouse that is a Gun-Free Zone is the 3rd floor of the building.  He says that’s the floor that houses the District Courtroom, Clerk’s Office and Judge’s Chambers.  He says that area was deemed a Gun-Free Zone by Judicial Authoritiy.  In other words, it was the Iowa Court System that declared the Gun-Free Zone, not the O’Brien County Board of Supervisors.

Schuknecht says the new law, as he understands it, would allow that portion of the courthouse to remain a Gun-Free Zone, since the designation was made by the state judiciary, rather than the county government.

The new law takes effect on July 1st.

Original story posted 12:05 pm, Friday 4/21/17

Northwest Iowa — Those who oversee the security at city halls and courthouses in northwest Iowa are hoping to get some more information about what Iowa’s new gun bill, which was signed into law by Governor Branstad last week, will mean for them.

According to the new legislation, political subdivisions, like cities and counties, are “prohibited from enacting an ordinance 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.”  The county sheriffs we talked to said there is some uncertainty about whether the new law would force changes in courthouse security.

At present, Lyon County Sheriff Stewart Vander Stoep says the Lyon County Courthouse is a “Gun-Free Zone”.  He says the Lyon County Attorney has notified their Board of Supervisors that there may be some issues with maintaining the Gun-Free Zone at the courthouse.  The Sheriff hopes they’ll know more once the Iowa Attorney General’s Office provides an interpretation of the new law.  Vander Stoep says the Lyon County Supervisors will revisit the issue before the new law takes effect July 1st.  In addition, Vander Stoep says his officers provide court security at the courtroom door on trial days.  He said he wonders if they will still be allowed to do that once the new law goes into effect.

In Osceola County, Sheriff Doug Weber says the Board of Supervisors have posted the courthouse as a Gun-Free Zone, but he says they never passed an ordinance making it so.  As a result, the sign would probably have no legal effect on anyone entering the Osceola County Courthouse while carrying a firearm.  Weber says he thinks the only change the new law might require in Osceola County would be the removal of the no-guns sign from the courthouse.

We reached out to O’Brien County Sheriff Allen Schuknecht and Sioux County Sheriff Dan Altena, but both were out of the office and unavailable for comment.

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