Concealed carry guns could be banned from Denver parks, city buildings

Allowing people to carry concealed firearms in city buildings and parks makes those places less safe, Denver officials contend, and now the City Council is poised to make it illegal even for people with concealed carry permits.

Violators would face fines of up to $999 if they are found with a gun in City Hall, the Carla Madison Recreation Center, Washington Park or any other park or building owned or even partially leased by the city of Denver, should the council approve the new ban later this month.

Opponents are decrying the ordinance as an infringement on constitutional rights that will expose Denverites to more danger by leaving them unarmed.

“Administrations and council members for years have asked the city attorney’s office ‘What more can we be doing to protect our citizens from the risks associated with firearms?’” Assistant City Attorney Erica Rogers said during a presentation before the council’s safety committee last month. “This has always been an answer and it’s one that we have been thwarted from pursuing by state law.”

That changed last year when the Democratically-controlled state legislature passed Senate Bill 256. That legislation declared firearm regulation a matter of state and local concern and gave individual municipalities the power to enact their own rules.

Post offices, schools and federal buildings already prohibit concealed carry permit holders from bringing in guns, Assistant City Attorney Reggie Nubine said. Now the city would be following suit in hopes of mitigating risks in all Denver parks and facilities.

“Folks aren’t infallible. Sometimes folks get mad and mundane situations might turn into dangerous situations when firearms and involved,” Nubine said in the safety committee hearing on April 27.

That was the city attorney’s office’s second appearance before the committee to discuss the ordinance. At the first hearing on April 13, a vote was postponed to allow officials to gather more information to answer a host of questions from council members.

The questions included whether there was data to support the assertion that limiting the number of guns in a facility made that facility safer.

At the April 27 hearing, Rogers provided links to national research. At least 14 academic studies suggest allowing people to carry guns in public leads to significant increases — 13 to 15% — in violent crime, according to those findings.

District 2 City Councilman Kevin Flynn remained skeptical, questioning whether the legislation was a solution in search of a problem.

He asked for numbers on how many gun-related incidents in city parks and facilities involved people with concealed carry permits. The Denver Police Department did not track that data point specifically, Nubine said.

“I am just having trouble understanding why we are keeping the whole class in from recess because of the misbehavior of some who don’t have a permit,” Flynn said.

A fatal shooting in La Alma-Lincoln Park in west Denver led the city to shut down that park and its recreation center indefinitely last week. It is unclear if the suspect in that killing, Trahavonie Deshawd Smith, had a concealed carry permit.

The penalties city officials are proposing start with fines of up $50 for a first offense and fines of up to $999 for additional offenses. Jail time was originally on the table but the city attorney’s office has to change that to conform with state law, spokeswoman Jacqlin Davis said this week.

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Based on feedback at the committee level, the ordinance has solid support on council.

District 5 Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, who has partnered on a gun buyback program this year, said at the April 27 hearing that she has heard from numerous constituents who were shocked to find out concealed carry guns were allowed in city parks. District 3 Councilwoman Jaime Torres questioned the consistency and quality of requirements concealed carry permit holders have to go through. She was given a certificate that would have cleared her for a concealed carry permit after a three-hour course in which she never handled or fired a gun, she said.

“I don’t think it’s necessary nor appropriate for members of the public, city employees or anybody to have a concealed weapon in a city facility,” Council president Stacie Gilmore added at that hearing.

The bill will be on Monday’s city council agenda for first reading on Monday. A second reading will be held on May 16. Second readings are where public hearings typically take place. The measure has already drawn some outcry during open council comment periods.

“This measure, if passed, will actually reduce families’ safety and penalize responsible adults who have their due diligence to protect their loved ones in a landscape where criminals don’t respect laws such as these,” Denver resident Tim Bearden said at Monday’s council meeting.

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