Local News

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

Posted April 18, 2007 7:44 p.m. EDT
Updated April 20, 2007 1:06 p.m. EDT

— 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.”