Judges Packing Heat

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When shots rang just outside Judge Cynthia Stevens Kent's courtroom in February 2005, she feared the worst.

As people raced for cover in the courthouse, officers sealed the courtroom and raced to get Judge Kent out through the back door -- all as the shootout continued outside.

In the bloodbath, two people were killed and four were wounded. The gunman was shot dead after a high-speed chase.

Because of the episode, Judge Kent carries a gun.

"After that day, I'll never make that decision again," she said. "I decided that I'll keep my gun with me. I'm a licensed gun holder, but I'll also keep it as a judge."

So now, before she dons her robe, she checks for her Lady Smith & Wesson.

"If you're not personally responsible for taking the precautions you need to take -- whether it's in your home, in your community, on the bench -- for your personal security, you need to think about that," Kent said.

Threats and Shootouts On the Rise

Threats against judges have quadrupled in the last decade. In March 2005, Judge Rowland Barnes and two others were killed when a rape suspect stole a court officer's gun and began firing in court.

Authorities say this year is on pace to set a record. This June in Reno, Nev., Judge Chuck Weller was shot straight through his office window, seriously injured by a man allegedly unhappy with his divorce proceedings.

Texas, where Kent practices, is one of a handful of states that allow judges to come to court armed. Just this year, New York lawmakers paved the way for their federal judges to carry guns too.

But even with the number of threats at an all time high, there are some who argue that the idea of arming a judge is a bad idea.

John McKillop, the president of a New York's Court Officers' Association, says his officers are trained to deal with their own guns -- the kind of training judges do not receive.

Asked by ABC News' David Muir whether a judge carrying a gun would make a courtroom safer, McKillop responded, "No, it will make it more dangerous."

Having to account for a judge's gun could make a dangerous courtroom scene even more chaotic.

"They would be facing a situation where someone else in the courtroom doesn't have the same training to interact with the officers, would be faced with that judge potentially firing shots that could injure a court officer, or possibly a member of the public," McKillop said.

Judge Kent doesn't buy it. She received 10 death threats in just one year and said carrying a gun is a necessity.

"If I'm in a situation where I know it's a safe course of conduct to take -- I know it, it's absolutely necessary for my defense -- then absolutely I'm going to not only pull [the gun] but I'm going to pull the trigger," she said.

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