SIOUX CITY, Iowa — A new supervisory order by the Iowa Supreme Court will enable individual counties to seek to allow weapons in public areas of floors of a courthouse that are not totally occupied by the court system.
The order could alter the dynamics of courthouse security in the state.
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady on Tuesday issued a two-page supervisory order, to update his weapons prohibition order of June 2017, 12 days before an expanded gun rights bill took effect in the state.
Cady's new order said the other elements of the June order remain, but after consultation with chief judges, sheriffs and other county officials there can be a way for weapons to be taken in floors without court system elements.
"Upon written request of a county board of supervisors, or other controlling entity, the chief judge shall modify the weapons prohibition imposed by the supervisory order by eliminating the prohibition in public areas on those floors of a courthouse not totally occupied by the court system," Cady wrote.
Once a chief judge grants the modification, Cady wrote, "the court relinquishes to the requesting entity any authority over the regulation of weapons in the public areas on a floor of a courthouse not totally occupied by the court system."
Whether guns would be allowed in the Woodbury County Courthouse has been a contentious issue since the gun law passed in the spring.
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.
Woodbury County Board Chairman Matthew Ung told the Journal on Tuesday he's glad the Iowa Supreme Court "retract(ed) its overreach displayed in its June 19th order" and shows "some deference to separation of powers."
Ung added, "If the Sheriff’s Office then continues to ban all lawful, permitted carry, their office would no longer only be in violation of county policy, but a court order as well."
Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew said Tuesday he understood Cady's order.
“We will continue to comply with any orders that come from the court, as we have previously,” Drew said.
In late June, a majority of the supervisors voted to rescind a prior ban on weapons on county property, including the Woodbury County Courthouse. The supervisors said that was necessary to comply with the new state law expanding gun rights. However, Drew said he would keep enforcing the security program in the courthouse.
That program since 2014 has included personnel staffing metal detectors to find weapons such as guns. Drew said the security steps are needed to ensure that people are safe, as he said Iowa sheriffs are required to help carry out rulings by courts.
Drew pointed to the June 19 supervisory order wording that "all weapons are prohibited from courtrooms, court-controlled spaces and public areas of courthouses." The county supervisors, including Ung and others, said that was an "over-reach" by the court and conflicted with the new gun law.
Additionally, the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors on July approved a change to the employee handbook that allows county employees who have concealed-carry permits — but not open-carry permits — to bring guns to work in the courthouse and two other county building spots.