Proposed gun law draws fire

Some city councilors say ordinance could infringe on rights

A proposed ordinance restricting gun possession at public locations drew fire from the Craig City Council Tuesday.

And future passage of Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta's measure appeared uncertain after the meeting, which briefly turned into a forum on gun rights and public safety.

"They (criminals) don't care what the law is," said Councilor Bill Johnston, who repeatedly suggested the measure could infringe on gun owners' rights.

"I'm going to have a hard time voting for this."

The council took no action on the measure other than directing City Attorney Sherman Romney to tweak its language for reconsideration at the next regular meeting.

The ordinance would ban possession of a firearm "in a public place, including all city and county buildings or property, all city parks, the county fairgrounds and all establishments serving or selling liquor."

The proposal stems from a series of laws passed this session by the state Legislature giving Colorado municipalities authority to ban "open carrying" of firearms at public locations, provided signs specifying that prohibition are posted at those locations.

Holders of concealed weapons permits aren't affected, Vanatta said.

Open carrying of guns at city parks, the pool or public buildings including the same facility city councilors met Tuesday -- isn't addressed under any existing city ordinances, nor state or federal law.

Moreover, weapons can be openly carried at private establishments such as grocery stores, provided that establishment doesn't prohibit it, officials said.

"I'd guarantee you we'd get a phone call," Vanatta said in response to Johnston, who asked the chief whether he could bring a gun or rifle openly into City Market.

While authorities can act against intoxicated individuals carrying weapons in public locations, police now can only otherwise advise against it, Vanatta said.

"The main purpose is to provide a sense of security to people," Vanatta said of his proposal. "There's really no valid reason for carrying around a firearm in a city park."

Johnston along with Councilors Joe Herod and Tom Gilchrist questioned the chief's proposal.

"This is a really neat thing for a problem which doesn't exist," Gilchrist said.

Vanatta said Craig would incur no state-mandated penalties for not enacting the proposed restrictions, but returned to gun possession in city parks. And while saying he backed gun rights, "where you carry it (a firearm) is a privilege," the chief added.

"The first time a parent calls me, I'll refer them to you guys."

Romney, meanwhile, was asked by the council to redraft the proposed ordinance to remove potential vagaries, as Mayor Dave DeRose said that city "property" could be interpreted as covering all city streets.

But the proposal already had several backers among the city's staff.

"Wouldn't you feel uncomfortable if you saw a guy with a .44 magnum strapped on walking around the pool?" asked Dave Pike, Craig Parks and Recreation Department director.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.