Proposal would outlaw billy clubs in courthouses
Reacting to an incident in his hometown courthouse, an Illinois lawmaker wants to make it illegal for any individual to carry a billy club into courthouses or other county-owned buildings.
Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Sycamore, said his proposal, House Bill 4206, surfaced because someone tried to enter the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore with a “modified instrument” that could be used as a club.
DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said security personnel at the courthouse confiscated the object from the man as he walked into the courthouse roughly a year ago. Scott said he doesn’t know if the man intended to use the object.
Law enforcement authorities sought to charge the man with unlawful possession of a weapon. But the charge was dropped when officials determined that his item did not fit the definition of a “billy,” which must be weighted at one end, Scott said.
Pritchard’s legislation would close a loophole in existing law, Scott said.
HB4206, introduced this month in the General Assembly, would outlaw possessing a billy club in a building that county government owns or operates. Existing law already prohibits carrying or possessing a billy club “with intent to use (it) unlawfully against another.”
To become law, the proposal must pass in the House and Senate and be approved by the governor.
Pritchard said on Wednesday that he plans to pursue passage of the bill in 2008. He said the proposal would help maintain a safe environment in courthouses.
“There’s more and more violent people in the courthouse,” he added.
Sheriffs in Sangamon County and Peoria County, who oversee security for their courthouses, raised questions about the legislation.
“How do you describe what a billy club is?” said Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy, who pointed out that he has not read the legislation.
McCoy said anything “that could be construed as a weapon” would not be permitted in the Peoria County Courthouse.
Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson agreed, saying that his officers at the Sangamon County Courthouse frequently take away knives or other items that people try to carry inside. The items are returned when their owners leave.
Williamson, who like McCoy has not yet examined Pritchard’s bill, said he agrees with the thinking behind it.
“The whole idea is to prevent attacks in the courthouse and keep the peace,” Williamson said.
But he added: “You can’t pass a law to cover every loophole.”
He also questioned how enforceable Pritchard’s proposal would be if enacted into law.
Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or Adriana.firstname.lastname@example.org