Courthouse security bill reintroduced in Congress

Bill would provide local courts with access to security training, existing grant money


Last week, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) reintroduced the Local Courthouse Safety Act, which would help improve security at smaller courthouses around the country. The law would provide local courts with access to security training, give states authority to use existing grant money to improve courthouse security, as well as give local courts access to excess federal security equipment, such as metal detectors and screening equipment.

"Minnesota's local sheriffs and courthouse personnel make our communities stronger and safer, and they shouldn't have to put their lives on the line to do their jobs," Franken said in a statement. "My legislation will give courthouses all over the state access to the resources they need to keep our justice system safe for everyone, and I'm going to keep fighting to pass it into law."

Franken originally introduced the bill last year following a 2011 shooting at the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais, Minn., which injured three people including the Cook County Attorney. Earlier this year, Mark Hasse, a prosecutor in Kaufman County, Texas, was shot to death in a parking lot near the courthouse building where he worked.

"I will never forget the tragic courthouse shooting we had in the Hennepin County Government Center and our resulting prosecution and enhanced security measures. We've seen this violence continue in other parts of our state with the shooting at the Cook County Courthouse two years ago," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who was an original sponsor of the 2012 measure. "These horrific acts underscore the importance of taking action to keep our local courthouses safe, and this legislation is a critical step to improve security and prevent future tragedies."

The bill is also co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)

"As we know too well in Arkansas, there is an elevated risk of violence in courthouses," said Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who was also an original sponsor of the 2012 bill. "We saw this when a gunman walked in to the Crawford County Courthouse, opened fire and was ultimately stopped before killing anyone by swift-acting law enforcement officers. As we look for fiscally responsible ways in which Washington can help our towns and cities protect their courthouses, it makes perfect sense to allow them to use existing federal money to improve courthouse safety. This bill is the smart way to give law enforcement the tools they need to help to stop these unnecessary acts of violence in our courthouses."