Denver City Council approved a bill restricting concealed carry in buildings owned, leased by or leased to the city Monday night, as well as Denver parks.
The proposal is part of Mayor Michael Hancock’s 2022 Public Safety Action Plan. Assistant staff from the city attorney’s office previously said the proposed legislation is part of the national conversation to reduce gun violence and came about after the legislature passed SB21-256, allowing local governments to prohibit firearms in certain parts of a government’s jurisdiction.
Council was split in its approval with a 9-3 vote after most of the council’s half-hour dedicated to public comment was filled with people speaking either for or against the bill.
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Councilmember Candi CdeBaca proposed an amendment that would have removed parks from the ordinance, because she said it creates more opportunities for excessive use of force from law enforcement. She said she has concerns over the ability to enforce this in open space without profiling and noted that when she asked for an enforcement plan, she was not provided one.
“We just spent the last two years learning why use of excessive force is inappropriate and what it can lead to, and this policy single handedly justifies an excessive use of force in any case where there’s an allegation that someone has a gun on them…” CdeBaca said. “There is no plan on how this can be addressed in a way that doesn’t bring cops to the scene with guns drawn on whoever the subject is of this allegation.”
Council Pro Tem Jamie Torres and Councilmember Kevin Flynn also supported CdeBaca’s amendment and ultimately were the three no-votes on the bill, with Councilmember Amanda Sandoval not being present at the meeting to vote. Torres said she agreed with CdeBaca’s point about enforceability in city parks.
Flynn noted that it was actually already illegal to carry concealed weapons in parks, and there existed an exemption for concealed carry permit holders. He reiterated Monday night that when he asked the City Attorney’s office and the Denver Police Department for data on crimes committed by permit holders, they had none.
“This ordinance tonight is not about making it illegal to carry concealed weapons in a park. It’s about removing the exception for people who have permits to do so,” Flynn said.
CdeBaca previously asked for demographic data on who holds concealed carry permits, and Flynn said the data shows “that one of the highest percentage increases in permit holders being approved is among the African American population in Denver.”
Denver previously had limitations on firearms in city buildings and parks, but older state laws required the presence of metal detectors in buildings where they are prohibited, which is why Denver’s City Hall has detectors. The goal of the bill is to increase safety in the city by “reducing the number of firearms present at any given time.”
Exemptions would apply to law enforcement officers, military personnel in performance of duties and licensed security guards with firearms endorsements in performance of duties. People carrying for use in a legitimate sporting event would also be exempt, as well as individuals with a valid authorization at Denver shooting ranges, and those lawfully traveling with a firearm.
Proposed penalties would be no more than a $50 fine on first offense and up to a $999 fine for a second offense depending on circumstances.
In terms of enforcement, staff from the city attorney’s office previously said people working in city buildings and parks are not responsible and are encouraged to call law enforcement if they suspect someone is carrying an unauthorized firearm. Signage also must be displayed in prohibited areas to notify the public for the bill to be enforced, per state statute.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the proposed penalties for bringing a concealed weapon onto city-operated property.