Locked and Loaded: Judges Arm Themselves

Concerned about increased violence, more judges are carrying guns into their courtrooms.

"It sits beside me in the chair," Judge Arch McGarity of Henry County, Ga., said of his pistol.

McGarity and some of his colleagues were prompted to take action in the wake of some frightening incidents, like the assassination of Judge Roland Barnes (search) during a March 11 courthouse shooting in Atlanta or threats caught on a police car camera just outside Kansas City.

"I know where that [expletive] judge sits or [expletive] judge in Platte City lives, and I'm going to [expletive] take him out," a man yelled to a Parkville Police officer in the tape.

With threats like those, it's no surprise McGarity wants added security. "I think it's more than just courtroom security. We have to be safe in our transfers from the courthouse to our homes, to our other things that we have to do," he said.

McGarity has a pistol on him when he sits on the bench. The move is permitted by law, but has at least one sheriff crying foul.

"If we have a situation where we don't know who has weapons, we don't know their level of training, we don't know where the weapons are being stored and suddenly we have judges and secretaries and clerks shooting — we have a nightmare," said Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill.

Trying to avert a tragedy, Judge Joan Lefkow (search) — whose mother and husband were killed by a man angry with the judge — called on Congress to make the protection of America's judges a top priority. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee (search) that politicians need to lower the rhetoric they use against judges when they disagree with their decisions.

"Fostering disrespect for judges can only encourage those that are on the edge of the fringe to exact revenge on a judge who ruled against them," Lefkow said.

Although it's unclear how many judges are armed, those with guns insist it is a rising trend.

"It's always best to have something you don't need than to need something you don't have," McGarity said.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Jonathan Serrie.