The attempt on the life of Steubenville, OH Judge Joseph Bruzzese, Jr. may seem like an isolated even, but courthouses have been home to violence before. Just weeks earlier, an inmate stole a sheriff’s deputy’s weapon, killing the deputy and another officer before fleeing and eventually taking his own life.
Incidents like this are disconcerting to those who work in courthouses, to be sure, but it’s probably most disconcerting to those who are the most likely targets of violence: The judges themselves.
It seems that Judge Bruzzese wasn’t an anomaly in one other way. More and more judges are apparently arming themselves.
As violence inside and near courthouses grows, judges increasingly are choosing to carry concealed weapons, experts say.
Judge Eugene Lucci, who presides over cases in an Ohio county courthouse and sits on the board of the American Judges Association, says there’s a clear concern among his colleagues in the judicial world about safety.
Lucci, who delivers talks to judges about protecting themselves, says he’s seen an unmistakable interest in carrying concealed firearms.
“Based on the number of requests that I get to speak on the topic, there’s definitely an uptick in interest by judges,” Lucci said, adding that while judges are more of a target for violent attacks than they once were, carrying a concealed weapon is not for everyone.
“It’s never wise to carry a firearm without training or experience,” said Lucci, who takes refresher firearms training about three times a year. “That weapon, in your hesitance based on lack of confidence and training, can be used against you, and you can make a mistake.”
First, it makes sense that judges would arm themselves. I’m frankly shocked that there are all that many who aren’t already armed, especially considering what they do for a living. So many make rulings that, while legal and just, still make someone feel like their life was just destroyed. The accompanying rage can make people dangerous, so it makes sense that judges would want protection.
However, anyone can be the target of a violent attack, not just judges.
In this day and age, just having the wrong haircut can apparently get you attacked. It makes sense not just for judges to be armed, but for everyone who can handle the responsibility of carrying a firearm to do so.
As for training, Lucci’s right that it’s necessary. I think few of us would disagree, though depending on what he means be “refresher training,” three times a year might be a bit excessive. If he’s talking about range trips, then maybe. If he’s talking about actual classes, well, not everyone can afford that.
Still, everyone should get some quality training and keep their skills up.
Especially if you’re in an occupation where you’re likely to anger people regularly, like being a judge. For any judge who believes that the police will be there to protect them, I’d like to call their attention and legal minds to Castle Rock versus Gonzales. The police may want to protect the judge, just like they want to protect every one of us, but they can only be so many places at a given time.