A court employee entered the Gwinnett (Ga.) Justice and Administration Center earlier this week with a gun in her handbag.
Deputies at the employee-only security station saw the gun on the X-ray, but the employee had picked up her bag before they could stop her.
They used surveillance cameras to track her down, but it took them several hours to identify her. By then the woman had discovered her mistake and returned her weapon to her car. The building was not evacuated during the search.
The woman has a concealed carry permit. She has not been identified, and she has not been charged with a crime or disciplined by her employer.
Court security has been a matter of grave importance in the Atlanta area since a 2005 incident in the Fulton County Courthouse when Brian Nichols allegedly escaped custody, grabbed the gun of a deputy, and shot a judge, court reporter, and a sheriff's sergeant.
U.S. Marshal Richard Mecum, who headed the Fulton County Courthouse Security Commission, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he hopes this week's security breach will be a learning experience for Gwinnett officials.
"A gun in the courthouse is not a good thing, certainly, whether it's an employee or otherwise," Mecum said. "It gives you pause, and in the pause you have a chance to reflect and see if there was something wrong (and) how to correct it.
Before the incident, deputies had been asked to process employees quickly at the security station. Employees will now be processed more slowly and thoroughly.