Let’s start with the basics: Unless you’re a cop or a licensed security guard, you can’t openly carry a gun in Denver.
Denver police Chief Paul Pazen is urging people planning to come to Denver to protest or rally to leave their guns at home. Pazen — who this week publicly faced questions over his department’s handling of last summer’s protests — said it’s critical people are familiar with the city’s gun laws, whether they live here or are visiting.
“We are seeking voluntarily compliance on this,” Pazen said. “Please, know the law, take the appropriate steps, that way we don’t have to worry about arrests and citations.”
Denver law enforcement officials are aware of possible demonstrations around the state Capitol next week, including on Jan. 20, which is Inauguration Day. Pazen said the department’s taking every step to prevent or reduce violence while still letting people protest.
Police aren’t providing details on their plan for dealing with possible protests, though Pazen said the department’s in daily contact with local, state and federal officials about potential demonstrations. The city’s public safety director said he met with the local FBI office this week in anticipation of local protests.
What the police department did share is that from 2017 to 2020, Denver police made an average of 28 arrests or citations for open carry. Last year, it made 30, down from 31 in 2019. DPD has made only one arrest or citation for open carry so far this year. Citations carry a fine and possible jail time.
While open carry is allowed under state law, Denver has its own laws in place preventing it. Marley Bordovsky, a lawyer in the City Attorney’s Office, said over email the city has banned open carry since 1973. This law survived a court challenge in 2004 after the state legislature passed gun-related bills in 2003 that would have prohibited Denver from having this kind of law.
Other guns and related materials banned in Denver under the city’s law include:
- Assault weapons, which city law defines as guns with certain characteristics, like semiautomatic action and magazines with high capacities. This include some rifles and certain shotguns.
- Bump stocks, an attachment that can make a gun shoot faster
- High-capacity gun magazines carrying more than 15 rounds
Denver allows concealed carry permits, which are approved or denied by the city’s public safety office. Pazen said the city has seen a “dramatic increase” in people applying for these permits.
DPD is responsible for getting and processing these applications by validating information and running criminal background checks, according to Denver police spokesperson Doug Schepman.