City shoots down proposed gun law

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A loud round of applause followed the defeat of a motion that would restrict carrying firearms out in the open on city property and establishments selling liquor.

As each of the six attending council members stated he would not support the ordinance, he was greeted with the same level of applause from the nearly 70 residents in the standing-room only council chambers Tuesday night.

The ordinance, tabled two weeks ago so language defining where firearms would be restricted could be made more specific, died unanimously and it was clear it would do so before any of the residents attending could speak out against it.

As the agenda item was announced, council members took turns voicing their opinions on the proposed ordinance. Each said he had never received as many phone calls on any other issue.

"That confirmed to me I was not off the mark and that I truly am representing the citizens I was elected to represent," City Council member Bill Johnston said. "I will vote against any gun control as long as I'm up here and that reflects not only my beliefs, but the beliefs of the citizens I represent."

The ordinance would have prohibited the carrying of firearms out in the open on any posted government property or inside any business that sells liquor. It would not have prevented the carrying of concealed weapons by those who have a permit to do so, nor would it have prevented a person from having a firearm in his or her vehicle.

"We feel that openly carrying firearms in parks and in city hall is just not safe and creates an environment that's open to risks," Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said. "Is it a problem now? No, but society has come to a point where it's uncomfortable with people openly carrying firearms. These are some locations where we didn't feel the risk was worth it."

A law passed in the 2003 Colorado Legislative session allowed municipalities to make their own calls as to restricting people from carrying firearms out in the open.

Several Colorado cities have enacted bans.

"The Legislature recognized that in some areas local governments have a concern about allowing people to carry firearms, so they allowed local governments to make the decision if they post a sign that lets people know firearms aren't allowed in certain areas," Vanatta said.

Private establishments still have the authority to restrict the carrying of firearms on their property, even without the ordinance, City Attorney Sherman Romney said.

"Certainly private establishments have the ability to restrict patrons' actions on their property and we're not affecting that in any way," he said.

No one at the meeting except for the chief of police spoke out in support of the ordinance.

"I don't see it as a problem," City Councilor Tom Gilchrist said. "I see it as a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. I think we have bigger fish to fry."

City Councilor Don Jones wanted to make it clear the council was listening to the people who spoke out.

"I have to go with the people who elected me," he said. "Those are the ones who are here and those are the ones who spoke out."

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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