Wisconsin judges are wrong to bar guns from court, prosecutor says

MILWAUKEE Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:47pm EDT

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MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A Wisconsin prosecutor asked the state's highest court on Tuesday to dismiss orders by local judges barring gun-toting attorneys from bringing concealed weapons into courtrooms.

Winnebago County District Attorney Christian Gossett argued in a petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court that local judges cannot overrule a state law that went into effect in November making Wisconsin the 49th state to allow qualified gun owners to carry a concealed weapon.

The request comes after six Winnebago County judges, saying they want to have safe and secure courtrooms to settle legal disputes, maintained their stance barring concealed weapons from the county courthouse.

"The first step in fulfilling that obligation, and in assessing safety and security threats in a courtroom, is for judges and law enforcement to be aware of who is carrying a weapon during a proceeding," the judges said in a statement.

Since the state's 'conceal carry' law went into effect, the county judges have issued three orders warning that anyone caught carrying a gun into a courtroom could face a contempt charge.

The petition by Gossett, who owns a shotgun and a service weapon from when he was a police officer, said the gun ban subjects prosecutors to unreasonable risk, and that there was no safe place to keep their weapons at work.

"We are hoping the Supreme Court will take (the case) because right now it's legal yet contemptuous to walk into a courtroom with a gun. Essentially it's legal and illegal," Gossett said in a telephone interview.

The petition said prosecutors must walk through public areas to reach the buildings housing courtrooms and that those areas "are not secured and are not even off-limits to weapons."

Illinois is the only state that does not have a concealed carry law.

(Editing by Andrew Stern, Cynthia Johnston and Philip Barbara)

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