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Denver city council votes to disarm law-abiding citizens in public parks

(AP Photo/Tae-Gyun Kim)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is expected to sign a new ordinance approved by the city council this week that bans law-abiding citizens from lawfully carrying a firearm in city-owned buildings and public parks; a measure that anti-gun council members laughably claim will actually improve public safety.

Despite concerns from a handful of council members, the ordinance was never in serious consideration of being defeated, and ultimately passed with a 9-3 vote. One of those objecting was Councilman Kevin Flynn, who said he’s not been able to find any reason why the new ordinance is needed.

Flynn emphasized on Monday that carrying a gun in a city park is already illegal unless a person is a license concealed carry permit holder. He did not see how banning law-abiding permit holders from having guns in parks changed anything for the better. He pointed to recent incidents of violence in public parks, including a fatal shooting in La Alma-Lincoln Park, and noted there was no connection to concealed carry permit holders.

“There is no data, no foundation that this actually does anything at all to improve our safety,” Flynn said.

Council member Candi CdeBaca unsucessfully tried to amend the legislation to remove the ban on carry in public parks while keeping the ban in place for city-owned buildings, but that effort failed along the same 9-3 vote as the ordinance itself. CdeBaca’s concern wasn’t necessarily about infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens; rather, she says she has concerns that the carry ban will lead to racial profiling on the part of Denver police in their enforcement of the new measure.

“I’m really disappointed in my colleagues today,” CdeBaca said after her amendment was voted down 9-3. She said that as a person of color she and her family have been directly affected by excessive uses of force by police. “We just opened the door to justify it.”

Flynn, CdeBaca and District 3 councilwoman Jamie Torres, who represents La Alma-Lincoln Park, voted for the failed amendment. The three also voted against the larger measure.

… The ban also drew plenty of opposition [from residents] on Monday.

Denver resident Allyson Thorn said she found no data to suggest concealed carry permit holders have contributed to rising rates of violent crime in Denver.

“I am wondering why city leaders are wanting to ban good, honest citizens from legally carrying concealed weapons in city facilities and parks,” Thorn said. “For people whose objective it is to remove all guns, this measure only removed them from law-abiding citizens, not criminals.”

Penalties for violating the concealed carry ban start at $50 for a first offense and can reach up to $999 for subsequent offenses. The potential for jail time was originally on the table but the city attorney’s office eliminated that to ensure the ordinance conformed with state law.

Do any of the Denver council members who voted for this honestly believe that the threat of a $50 fine is going to be enough to keep violent predators from carrying a gun in city parks? I highly doubt it, just as I suspect that there will still be plenty of concealed carry holders who continue to do the same as well. I personally would be much more willing to risk having to fork over $50 than go unprotected in a place that politicians have declared will be full of disarmed victims.

The new ordinance will likely face a legal challenge as well, though I expect any litigation to be on hold until the Supreme Court weighs in on the right to carry in the pending Bruen decision. A strong opinion by the Court protecting the right to bear arms in self-defense could spell trouble for Denver’s new ordinance, especially the ban on carrying in public parks. The city might be able to make the case that city-owned buildings should be considered “sensitive places” that should be off limits to lawful concealed carry, but it’s going to be awfully hard to argue the same holds true for public parks where there are no metal detectors, armed guards, or other security measures in place.

Jun 25, 2022 12:30 PM ET