Council OKs ballot language

Special election set for August on open-carry issue

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The Castle Rock Town Council voted May 20 to approve the language for a ballot question that addresses the issue of the open carry of firearms in municipal-owned buildings and town parks.

A special election is set for Aug. 19.

The ballot question will read as follows:

“Shall the town council ordinance 2014-03 be approved which ordinance revokes the authority of the Town manager under the municipal code to prohibit the open carry of firearms within municipal buildings, parks, recreation areas and other municipal properties owned or operated by the town of Castle Rock? Yes or No?”

A “no” vote would restore the town manager’s authority to ban the open carry of guns on town property.

The council considered five possible wordings of the question.

“One thing that we all wanted to make clear was that individuals knew exactly what they are voting on,” Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Green said.

In January, the town council voted 4-3 to repeal a 2003 ordinance that gave the town manager the authority to prohibit firearms on property the town owns or controls.

Under the town manager’s authority, firearms were prohibited in most town-owned buildings and parks. The January repeal meant there would be no restrictions on the open carry of firearms on town-owned property.

In February, some residents initiated a referendum to reverse council’s January decision. They collected 2,249 valid signatures, meaning council was required by state statute to reconsider.

The council could have either set the election or rescinded its January decision to lift the 2003 ordinance, meaning authority would have remained with the town manager.

In April, the council voted to set a special election regarding the issue.

Earlier this month, the council considered the first version of proposed ballot language on the question.

The 2003 ordinance giving the town manager authority to bar guns is “a bad law. It does not belong on our books. Regardless of where you stand on open carry, regardless of where you stand on the Second Amendment, it’s a bad law. We should pull it out by the roots and toss it aside,” District 6 Representative George Teal said.

During the same meeting, councilmembers also discussed proposing an amendment to the Town Charter regarding the open carry of firearms on town-owned property.

Amendments to the Town Charter can only be approved by voters in an election.

“We talked about it last time, one question on this ballot. The time for a charter amendment should be afterwards,” District 4 Representative Chip Wilson said.

A charter amendment question could be added to the special election ballot in August or it could wait for the November election.

The council meeting on May 20 went long and a brief special meeting was held on May 22 to resolve the charter amendment discussion and meet procedural requirements that will allow the continuation of discussion on a timetable that would make it possible for the proposed amendment to be added to the Aug. 19 special election if needed.

The council agreed to explore the possible wording of such an amendment and will discuss possible options, as well as listen to public comment on the matter, at the next meeting June 3.

Some members of the council have raised concerns about how different outcomes on the two votes may affect the open carry law. An amendment to the charter would likely overpower whatever decision is made in the August special election.