Denver carry ban advances despite concerns from council members

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The Mile High City is taking aim at legal gun owners with new restrictions aimed directly at concealed carry holders, but there appears to be some growing dissention from at least a few members of the Denver City Council. On Tuesday the council voted unanimously to send a proposed ban on concealed carry in government-owned buildings and public parks to a final reading, but not before several members openly talked about the need to revise the proposal, or even drop it completely.

The push for new local gun control laws in the Colorado capital comes a year after lawmakers repealed the state’s firearm preemption law and gave the green light for localities to impose their own restrictions that go beyond current state law. So far most of the attempts to impose local ordinances have taken place in the Denver suburbs, but Denver Mayor Michael Hancock wants to see the city adopt a sweeping ban on lawfully-possessed firearms on city-owned property as part of his public safety plan. On Tuesday, however, some council members appeared reluctant to go along with the proposal as it currently stands.

While the whole council approved moving the bill to a second reading, Councilmember Candi CdeBaca said she would propose an amendment next week to remove city parks from the ban.

“This would be more aligned with how other people have implemented bans in city-owned spaces,” CdeBaca said. “They often identify public facilities, physical buildings and not necessarily the outdoors…”

Councilmember Kevin Flynn reiterated concerns he shared at the committee discussion on the bill and said he would look forward to seeing CdeBaca’s amendment next week. He said the council has yet to be presented with any evidence that there is a problem the bill seeks to solve and whether or not it would result in a “positive outcome.”

“I’ll vote yes to advance this to publication, but I remain very skeptical that this bill actually does anything,” Flynn said. “… I do look forward to receiving any data that shows this would actually address a problem rather than be a performative piece of legislation that sends messages but results in nothing.”

It’s actually worse than simply being a performative piece of legislation. If the proposed ordinance did nothing, it would be performative. Unfortunately, the proposal will have a substantive impact on the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves in public spaces. And make no mistake, this law is aimed directly at legal gun owners with valid concealed carry licenses. Carrying a concealed firearm without a license is already a criminal offense under Colorado state law; specifically a first-degree misdemeanor that can be punished by up to 364 days in jail.

Compare that to the punishment that would come from violating the city’s proposed ordinance banning firearms from city-owned property: a maximum $50 fine for a first offense, with a second offense incurring a fine up to $999 and the potential of 300 days in jail.

Anyone carrying without a license is already subject to harsher penalties, so it stands to reason that this particular ordinance is targeting those who are licensed to carry in the state of Colorado. But those caught carrying without a license may actually benefit from the change in city law, because if the ordinance is put in place then the local District Attorney can always refer any cases of carrying without a license on city property to the City Attorney’s office instead, which will result in less punishment for those offenders.

So no, this proposal won’t result in “nothing” if it’s approved by the City Council. It will actively harm the right of self-defense for law-abiding Coloradans, while giving soft-on-crime prosecutors a tool to cut a break with those caught possessing a gun without a carry license in city parks, rec centers, and perhaps even city-owned housing properties. The only reason for city council members to adopt this measure is because gun control activists and Denver’s anti-gun mayor are demanding it. Far from improving public safety, if this ordinance ends up on the books it will only make Denver a more dangerous place for the law-abiding.