Guns. Always a heated issue in American society — perhaps never more than right now. In their April 19 study session, members of the Wheat Ridge City Council tackled the topic as they tried to …
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Guns. Always a heated issue in American society — perhaps never more than right now.
In their April 19 study session, members of the Wheat Ridge City Council tackled the topic as they tried to decide if open carry (or any carry) of deadly weapons should be allowed on city property.
City Manager, Patrick Goff said the city’s code of laws does not currently prohibit open carry in city owned buildings or open spaces.
He said many years ago the state legislature addressed the issue by passing a statute. In 2003, city staff brought forward an ordinance that would align city code with the new state statute, but the council declined to move forward with the ordinance at that time.
Then, security concerns during last November’s general election brought the issue back into the spotlight.
Jeffco employees inquired if Wheat Ridge had an ordinance prohibiting open carry at polling places like City Hall and the Wheat Ridge Rec. Center, and they were told it didn’t.
Current state law restricts local governments from prohibiting the carry of concealed weapons unless the city puts additional security parameters (like metal detectors) in place. It also requires the city to pass a law if they want to prohibit open carry of weapons on city property and post signs stating open carry is not allowed.
Most neighboring cities including Arvada, Golden, Lakewood and Denver have ordinances prohibiting carry of deadly weapons on city property. Jefferson County has a similar county ordinance.
Goff said city staff had come up with three recommendations for Council to study. The first recommendation was for Council to direct staff to draft an ordinance moving forward with the alignment of city codes with the state statute. The second recommendation was to allow the city to prohibit the carry of deadly weapons on city property (i.e., city hall, recreation center, and any park or open space that is owned and managed by the city of Wheat Ridge). The third suggestion was to direct staff to draft an ordinance to align city code with the state’s legal definition of “deadly weapon.”
City Attorney, Gerald Dahl said it would be possible to prohibit concealed carry as well as open carry, but it would come at a greater cost because manned walk-through metal detectors would need to be installed to properly enforce a prohibition of concealed carry.
Goff said he’s not aware of any incidents of open carry in city hall thus far, but worries about the toll it could take on staff who already have to deal with aggression from people who come in.
“I think adding the layer of an open carry weapon in this situation would make it much worse,” he said. “I can’t say we’ve had an incident with an open carry weapon, but we’ve had instances where employees are attacked and harassed to a level that they fear for their life and they’ve quit. So, I would like to be able to control our environments for both our employees and our public.”
Council member Janeece Hoppe said she thinks it’s important to create safe spaces for staff who are the city’s front-line workers.
Currently, city hall and the city’s recreation center have signs posted that aim to discourage the open carry of weapons, but it’s merely a suggestion that is unenforceable without passing an ordinance.
Council member Judy Hutchenson said she thinks both open and concealed carry should be prohibited, and metal detectors should be installed if that’s what it takes to make it happen.
“They don’t allow this in court. Why would it be different in a city building, a rec. center?” she said. “It’s not just the rights of employees, it’s the rights of the people who live in Wheat Ridge, that come to Wheat Ridge just to do their everyday business or to have fun, and the idea of deadly weapons on city owned property — exactly why do we need that?”
Council member Leah Dozeman said she is a concealed carry permit holder and took issue with what she called the “criminalizing and stereotyping” of the kind of security Second Amendment rights guarantee for citizens.
She said for the sake of staff feeling secure she would be open to regulating open carry, but she would never support the regulation of concealed carry permit holders.
In the end, Council reached consensus on all three of the staff recommendations — drafting an ordinance aligning city code with state law, aligning city code with state law definition of deadly weapon, and prohibition of deadly weapons on city property.
City Attorney, Gerald Dahl will now be tasked with drafting the legislation.
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