Courthouse Security Bill Praised By Local Officials

They are judges, law enforcement, administrators, who walk through the Smith County Courthouse each day. On Thursday, they're showed their support for courthouse security bill H.R. 1751. "We also need a place where justice can be done in a safe, calm, secure environment. Where people are not dodging bullets or afraid of having to dodge bullets if they come into the courthouse," 114th District Judge Cynthia Kent. The events of February 24 are what inspired Congressman Gohmert to author the bill, designed to prevent, protect and punish. Protected under the bill are U.S. judges and federal officers, their immediate family members and national guard members serving as state officers. Expect stiff penalties for committing crimes against them. Kill a federal officer and receive a 30 year minimum to life in prison or death. The bill also raises the maximum punishment for crimes against victims, witnesses and jurors. "We're going to deter people from wanting to interfere and those that do we're going to deter them for a long time," says Judge Kent. "Anytime we can deter any type of crime whatsoever it's a great opportunity to do so," Smith County Lieutenant Marlin Suell, who was shot and wounded during the courthouse shooting. Although the bill mainly protects federal officials, those on the state and county level say it's wake up call that security locally should also be a priority. "If we're going to spend tens of millions of dollars to build a jail, let's look at building a court facility where jurors and witnesses are can safely do their work," says Judge Kent. If the bill passes in the U.S. Senate and becomes law, it will send a message to those that put their lives on the line, that their work is not in vain.

Congressman Gohmert joined officials today via telephone saying he is optimistic about the bill passing in the senate.

Christine Nelson reporting.