Last Week's Atlanta Shootings Spark Debate About Guns in Court

The 14th Judicial Circuit's chief public defender, Herman Laramore of Marianna, is calling for a ban on firearms in area courtrooms.

Fulton County, Georgia court bailiff Cynthia Hall says she doesn’t remember a thing about last week's shootings. She was in that ninth floor courtroom in Atlanta last Friday morning when Brian Nichols attacked her, took her gun and opened fire.

Nichols killed a judge, his court reporter and one of hall's fellow bailiffs. Hall survived a blow to the head, but her doctors say she's apparently blocked out the events of that morning.

It's that kind of incident that has some local lawyers concerned.

Chief Public Defender Herman Laramore says he can relate to last week's Atlanta courthouse rampage. He says the same thing almost happened to him here in Florida’s 14th Judicial Circuit.

"A law enforcement officer had to protect me, which I'm greatly appreciative of, but the defendant grabbed for the deputy's gun. If he would have gotten the gun it would have been tragic."

Last week's Atlanta tragedy and Laramore's personal experiences have prompted him to call for an end to arms in the courtrooms in this area. Laramore says bailiffs should carry stun guns or mace instead.

Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen is not pleased with the idea of disarming.

"Heard of the saying, 'When you get my gun you pry it from my cold dead hands?’ I believe that's how law enforcement feels about that."

McKeithen says he has a better idea; leave guns in the courtroom, but make sure criminals can't get them.

"We're going to make sure every bailiff has a security holster. Stop people from getting the gun away."

You have to unsnap several buttons and make two or three hand motions to unleash the gun, but Laramore says the security holsters can be defeated.

"I don't think it's enough. The simpler way is to keep guns out of the courtroom. Why don't they let them take them into the jails or prisons?"

Both Laramore and McKeithen agree on one proposed change: more manpower. More deputies per high-risk defendant is sure to help prevent a deadly situation.


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