Douglas County

Douglas County commissioners repeal public open-carry ban

Metal detector deactivated at county building

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A metal detector near the entrance of the Douglas County commissioners’ hearing room recently was deactivated.

That happened because of the county commissioners’ December decision to repeal a resolution adopted in 2003 that had “prohibited open carrying of firearms in all Douglas County facilities.”

County spokeswoman Wendy Holmes said it is her understanding that the decision to repeal was made because the county hasn’t had a problem with open carry — and it’s “an individual liberty that our commissioners believe is extremely important.”

Also, the county’s practice wasn’t consistent with state law, which requires that where open carry is prohibited, signs must be posted. Only the fairgrounds had a sign outlawing open carry and that sign is now gone. Another sign, removed recently from the Philip S. Miller building where the commissioners meet, didn’t refer to firearms — just prohibited knives, explosives and martial arts weapons, Holmes said.

The open-carry item — along with several others dealing with rules on county properties — was unanimously approved Dec. 17 as a consent agenda item. Holmes said there would have been opportunity for public comment if a member of the public had seen it on the consent agenda and requested that it be removed from the consent agenda. That didn’t happen.

In the county’s new resolution, open carrying of firearms is prohibited only where signs have been posted — either permanently or temporarily — at the discretion of the county manager. Currently, only the Douglas County Justice Center is posted to prohibit firearms.

Holmes said there will still be a security guard at the Philip S. Miller building and the metal detector will remain there because there may be times when they need to use it. However, for the most part, it will remain inactive.

Douglas County Sheriff Dave Weaver posted a statement on Facebook Jan. 27 in response to citizens’ questions, which informed people about the county’s current policy and expressed his support for Castle Rock’s efforts to repeal its open-carry ban.

“As the Sheriff of Douglas County, I want you to know I support the repeal to ban open carry in Castle Rock. Even though each city and town (for example, town council) is responsible for enforcing and upholding their own ordinances, I do have an opinion on such matters.

“I do not though have the right to communicate to a town or city what they may or may not do or can or cannot do. As your Sheriff, my department and I are strictly responsible for the unincorporated areas of Douglas County only. We are responsible to enforce the laws that are passed for the county and the citizens in that county. The current ordinance that is in place to ban open carry in certain areas of Castle Rock (buildings, parks, trails, etc.) which is where the conversation started is not something I agree with and I definitely support the decision to repeal the ban altogether.

“It is also important to note that in the unincorporated areas of Douglas County where I am the Sheriff, parks, trails and open space, open carry is permissible. Open carry is also allowed in county buildings with the exception of the justice center and a few places where it says `no weapons.’ As your current Sheriff, I will continue to support the Constitution and uphold my oath to the office I represent.”

On Jan. 28, Castle Rock Town Council repealed its 13-year-old open-carry ban by a 4-3 vote.

A citizens’ referendum effort officially began the day after, but if it isn’t successful, the repeal is scheduled to go in effect Feb. 27, allowing open carry in all town-owned buildings and facilities, except municipal court and in areas that are within 1,000 feet of a school.

A majority of Castle Rock police officers expressed they wanted the ban to stay in place — as did the town’s Public Safety Commission, which advises the council on police and fire matters.

In Douglas County, Sgt. Ron Hanavan, Douglas County sheriff’s spokesman, said the commissioners didn’t ask for the department’s input before making their decision.

“They didn’t ask, and we wouldn’t expect them to,” he said. “In this scenario, it’s basically what the board (wants).”

How the consent item appeared on the agenda:

The repeal of the 10-year-old county open-carry ban (limited to public places) appeared as letter (R) on the consent agenda during the Dec. 17 Douglas County Board of County Commissioners business meeting with the following description: “Resolution Concerning the Use of Douglas County Owned or Operated Buildings, Facilities, Parks, Trails and Open Space; Barbara Drake — Deputy County Manager.”

With the new resolution, four prior resolutions, adopted by county commissioners between the years of 2003 and 2005 and pertaining to uses on county properties were consolidated and streamlined into one resolution (R013-153). One dealt with smoking bans; one with skateboarding activities; another specifically with parks, trails and open space regulations such as use of alcohol, treatment of wildlife, swimming, camping, pets, etc.; and a fourth with firearms. None of those items were specifically mentioned on the agenda outline.

During the streamlining process, nothing that was not pertaining to the topic of firearms was changed for the new resolution.