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Durham Judge Keeps Gun in Court, Law May Make it Legal

Posted April 18, 2007
Updated April 20, 2007

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— The “No Concealed Handguns” sign on the courthouse door in Durham doesn’t stop Judge David LaBarre from keeping a gun behind the bench.

“I have a little derringer, five-shot derringer,” said the judge, who presides over Domestic Violence Court.

LaBarre has a permit for the gun, but he is breaking the law by having it in the courtroom, according to the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.

But sheriff’s officials said they have no intention of telling him it’s illegal, because it’s his courtroom.

The gun-toting judge might not be breaking the law for long. State lawmakers met Wednesday to debate legislation that would allow judges to carry concealed handguns in the courtroom.

As of late Wednesday, House members were one step away from approving the bill and sending it to the Senate.

Rep. Walter G. Church, Sr., D-Burke, is one of the bill's sponsors.

“This is more of a security measure,” he said.

While LeBarre has never fired the gun in the courtroom, he said he has felt threatened occasionally.

In Northampton County last year, a defendant grabbed a law enforcement officer’s gun and shot a correctional officer with the state Department of Correction before an officer shot and killed him. But would judges having guns improve courthouse security?

“Not necessarily,” LeBarre said, but, “It might improve my own security.”

100 Comments

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  • Lightfoot Apr 20, 2007

    “joker”,
    For over half a century, the Pledge of Allegiance did not have “under God” and everyone was fine with it. Then came the Russians and their perceived atheism. Congress met and in 1954, passed a law to add the “under God” phrase as a direct message to the “godless Communists” that we were a God believing, Christian nation. However the U.S. Constitution specifically says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". Therefore it was unconstitutional. Nobody challenged it because a) McCarthyism as at its height, and b) the majority didn’t have a problem with it at the time. In the present day, saying you like it in there is one thing. But praising it, then telling your fellow Americans to leave the country if they don’t like it, is quite another.

  • ghwhitaker1_old Apr 19, 2007

    68-polara: you obviously have a lot more confidence in judges' marksmanship than I do. A body doesn't necessarily stop a bullet, and someone may just be behind the target. My point was and is that the better practice is for there to be no guns in the courtroom. It is way too dangerous for anyone to fire a gun in a crowded courtroom. If there are no guns, and a defendant or anyone else behaves in a threatening manner, baliffs or others present can simply subdue the person, and no one is placed in danger of being shot. If an armed baliff attempts to subdue an unruly person, there is always a chance the baliff could lose control of his gun, which is exactly what happened in the Georgia case and the Halifax County case.

  • sick of You Apr 19, 2007

    It is his courtroom. I don't blame him.

  • 68_polara Apr 19, 2007

    Blah blah...
    If a violent defendant obtains a gun IN A COURT HOUSE or in a court room I would still wish someone, other than just the violent criminal, would have a gun.

    Now you did have a good question:
    Would the judge be criminally and/or civilly liable for injuring or killing an innocent bystander?

    The answer is yes, as always you are responsible for the bullets that you fire whether they hit their target or not. But the image of Judge Jesse James shooting indiscriminately that "Inter Alios" seems to be trying to convince us of is a bunch of bologny.

  • LADY1 Apr 19, 2007

    I don't blame the judge, if I were a judge I would carry me one to.

  • ghwhitaker1_old Apr 19, 2007

    68-polara: it could also be your life the judge's gun takes. In my opinion, it would be criminal negligence to fire a gun in the general direction of innocent bystanders. Would the judge be criminally and/or civilly liable for injuring or killing an innocent bystander? Would your opinion be different if the innocent bystander was a close member of your family? The courthouses I am familiar with have metal detectors staffed by law enforcement personnel whose job it is to prevent visitors to the court from bringing weapons in. If they do their job, the only ones in the courtroom with a gun is the baliff and law enforcement officers, and, if they were required to lock their weapons away outside the courtroom, there would be no guns in the courtroom. The defendants in the cases in Ga. and Halifax County, NC obtained guns from the bailiffs. Thus, there appears to be a sollution other than adding one more gun to the courtroom.

  • I hear voices Apr 19, 2007

    I'm still trying to figure out where vergirl111 said anything against the constitution. Someone please enlighten me.

  • 68_polara Apr 19, 2007

    wveagleson,

    It's okay for some innocent individual to wounded or killed as long as the judge is safe. That's BS.

    Where did you get that from? It could be your life the Judge's gun saves.

    However, until he can legally carry it in the court room he needs to leave it in his home or in his car where it can be stolen and used in a violent crime.

  • wveagleson Apr 19, 2007

    If domestic violence offenders present that much of a threat in the courtroom, then add more security.

    I agree with the comment about what might happen if the judge misses his intended target. And again he is using a derringer; a little sissy gun.

    It's okay for some innocent individual to wounded or killed as long as the judge is safe. That's BS.

    THE MAIN POINT HERE IS THAT THIS JUDGE IS BREAKING THE LAW PERIOD, NO IF ANDS OR BUTS. HE NEEDS TO GO TO JAIL FOR HIS BEHAVIOR BUT THE DURHAM COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT IS SO "CHICKEN S@*&" THAT IT WON'T ENFORCE THE LAW. WHY ARE THEY EVEN NECESSARY AND WHAT IS THEIR REAL FUNCTION??? Good-bye to Worth Hill in the next election.

  • 68_polara Apr 19, 2007

    It's mostly a deterrent. Besides, if a violent defendant obtains a gun from a bailiff. You had better believe I would wish someone other than just the defendant would have a gun. You would believe the kinds of people these judges have to deal with on a daily basis.

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