Pierce County Courthouse security changes on hold

Pierce County is putting an enhanced courthouse security plan on hold due to concerns about a state law requiring that the county provide storage for weapons that are brought to the building — particularly knives.

The new policy, which had been scheduled to go into effect June 16, would have ceased the practice of storing knives and other “edged” weapons as well as clubs, Mace and the like while visitors conduct their business in Pierce County’s three courthouses.

“We will comply with the state law,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “In the meantime, I’m asking our Courthouse Standing Security Committee to examine the law and recommend common-sense changes. I’ve already begun alerting Pierce County’s legislative delegation that we’ll be asking them to consider this when the Washington Legislature convenes next January. There’s no constitutional right to carry a knife. We should not be required to hold knives for people who try to bring them into the building.”

At issue was the existing practice of holding knives for safekeeping while people conduct their business, and then retrieve their weapons from security staff on the way out. The practice presents a safety issue for the thousands of people who access the buildings. And the process of identifying, collecting and temporarily storing those weapons contributes to long lines to get into the buildings.

However, a state law (RCW 9.41.300) requires the county to provide storage for guns, knives and a host of other weapons. The courthouse security changes would not have applied to guns that are lawfully brought to courthouses — just the other items.

“Our courthouse security staff processes more than 3,000 entries a day into our courthouses,” Executive McCarthy said. “Just last month, our staff prevented 965 knives and other edged weapons from being carried into the County-City Building. That’s why the Sheriff’s Department supports this effort to keep everyone who uses our courthouses safe by discouraging people from bringing weapons to our facilities.”