Ellis County now allows open carry inside courthouse

Gun owners who are licensed to open carry will now be allowed to bring their weapons inside the historic Ellis County Courthouse.

It's a change that was celebrated, but not everyone is happy about it.

It's a new chapter for the Ellis County Courthouse.

Starting this week, all four doors to this historic courthouse are now open to the public. And all visitors who are licensed to carry can carry their handguns into the building without a security check for the first time since 2015.

"Today's opening signifies the freedom that we have here in Texas," said Ellis County Judge Todd Little. "The county judge at that time elected because of a threat to lock down the doors on the first floor."

For the last four years, anyone coming in or out of the courthouse had to enter through the basement and pass through a metal detector.

Judge Little says the topic has been on the table for months and came down to a 3-2 vote at last week's commissioner's court meeting. Little was the tie-breaker in favor of opening the doors.

"We wanted to just mirror the laws of the state of Texas," he said.

 "The courtroom itself is barred to people with a firearm. Even a license to carry holder," Commissioner Paul Perry said.

But a precinct judge does have the option to make an exception and allow the guns in his or her courtroom.

County Commissioner Kyle Butler voted against opening the doors, concerned about employee safety after threats in past years. He told FOX4: "Sometimes in the courtroom, it gets a little out of hand. You never know what people are thinking or what people are doing."

But Commissioner Paul Perry, who voted in favor of the change, says it won't leave the courthouse unsecured.

"We're not too concerned about someone coming in the building with a gun because we can meet them with security if we need to," Perry said.

The historic building dates all the way back to 1850 when it was just a log cabin. It was renovated into a courthouse and dedicated in 1895. Now, it's open to the public for visitors and locals to explore as they wish.