Beshear vetoes Kentucky bill allowing lawyers bring guns into court

Published 5:18 am Tuesday, April 12, 2022

A bill allowing lawyers to carry concealed weapons anywhere in Kentucky, including courtrooms, drew a veto Monday from Gov. Andy Beshear, who said it could spark dangerous situations.

The Democratic governor said he was contacted by judges, prosecutors and the state Fraternal Order of Police requesting him to veto the measure. The proposal was attached as an amendment to an unrelated bill by the Senate before it cleared the Republican-led legislature in the final hectic days before lawmakers took their “veto period'” break to allow Beshear to review stacks of passed bills.

The gun-carrying allowance would apply to lawyers arguing cases as well as attorneys personally involved in cases, including domestic disputes or divorces, Beshear’s veto message said. The bill is one of a raft of measures vetoed recently by the governor. Lawmakers will be able to take up veto override efforts when they reconvene Wednesday for the final two days of this year’s session.

The governor said he supports Second Amendment rights to bear arms, but his veto message raised potentially dangerous scenarios in courtrooms if the measure becomes law.

“Courtrooms are venues of often volatile disputes that can be filled with emotion and tension,” wrote Beshear, a former state attorney general.

“A criminal defendant accused of murder, who cannot be placed in restraints in the presence of a jury because it carries a presumption of guilt, will be able to stand in a courtroom within inches of an armed attorney, with courtroom security not knowing the location of the firearm,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Senate Republican leaders declined to comment Monday on the veto.

Republican Sen. Johnnie Turner, who sponsored the amendment, said previously in an email that attorneys should have the same right to protect themselves as prosecutors and judges, the Courier Journal reported. The bill would apply to lawyers who hold a license to carry a concealed deadly weapon.