Senate bill could give courthouse employees firearms

Published: Jan. 29, 2020 at 5:01 PM CST
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Senate Bill 51 proposes that courthouse employees throughout South Dakota can possess a concealed pistol.

A courtroom can be a place where people’s fates are determined, and at times verdicts may not be handled well.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Swenson said, “Any court case emotions can run high whether it be a divorce case, a civil case, a criminal case I mean it’s hit or miss where emotions get involved.”

Sheriff Steve Swenson has been with Lincoln County for two years and says there is at least one deputy in the courtroom during every case.

"Armed law enforcement personnel in the courthouse whenever it’s open,” he said.

The Lincoln County Courthouse is equipped with metal detectors and plenty of staff, but Sheriff Swenson understands that not all counties have this kind of safety.

The Sheriff added, “There’s a lot of courthouses in South Dakota that would have minimal security, the Sheriff’s Office would be there, but it might be a two-man department. So, there are some counties that are very short-handed, and security can become an issue for them.”

If the bill becomes a law, Sheriff Swenson says he it’s important that employees are highly qualified to carry a firearm.

“What the Sheriff’s in the state prefer to see would be the enhanced carry permit being a requirement, that’s the training that you’re speaking of, that they would go through that enhanced training. So, that we know that if Joe Smith in the Clerk’s Office is carrying a firearm that they know the operations of the firearm,” said Sheriff Swenson.

Senate Bill 51 is still in Senate Judiciary Committee.