City Council passes gun ban in Denver parks and city buildings — even for concealed carry permit holders

Opponents fear the new law will disproportionately target people of color.

Instructor Anubis Heru works with Ikaika Hill inside 17 Seventy Armory and Gun Club's new "virtual" range in Five Points. Oct. 17, 2020.

Instructor Anubis Heru works with Ikaika Hill inside 17 Seventy Armory and Gun Club's new "virtual" range in Five Points. Oct. 17, 2020.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
kyle harris

City Council voted 9 to 3 to ban concealed-carry permit holders from carrying firearms in city parks and city buildings, with councilmembers Kevin Flynn, Candi CdeBacca and Jamie Torres voting no.

The decision was made after divided public testimony on the issue.

“I moved to Denver in 1999,” said Eileen McCarron of Colorado Ceasefire. “At that time, guns were prohibited in Denver’s public buildings. How did things change? All across this country, the NRA was endeavoring to enact concealed carry laws. In 1999, it came knocking on Colorado’s door with this gun-industry marketing scheme. Thirteen dead at Columbine only briefly delayed them, and in 2003, the NRA got its wish.”

She described a string of gun-violence incidents in parks and described the horrors of mass shootings.

“What did the concealed carry law do to us as a community?” she asked. “It has normalized the carrying of hidden handguns in public. It has taken what should have been extraordinary and made it an ordinary and average everyday activity which has had a devastating impact on families and communities.”

Opponents said the law would make good people less safe.

Retired NASA engineer Allyson Thorn described a spike of crime in Denver. On long walks through parks along the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, she has feared being attacked. She says she wants the right to defend herself.

“I see circumstances that give me pause as to whether I could defend myself against an assault, should I and others like me not be allowed to provide for our own self-defense as a measure of last resort,” she said. “I see no security on these paths — no measure of security. It would take probably hours for anybody to reach us at that point.

“For people whose main objective is to remove all guns, this proposal removes the guns from law-abiding citizens, not from the criminals,” she continued. “Criminals and bad people do not care what laws are passed. These kinds of measures do not affect them or their behaviors. These measures make it more difficult for good, kind, caring people to protect themselves.”

CdeBaca attempted to amend the bill with language that would give concealed-carry permit holders the ability to carry in any parks. Flynn and Torres supported it, but the rest of council shot that down.

Flynn objected to passing the final bill, arguing its supporters hadn’t shown sufficient evidence that such a law was needed.

“This makes about as much sense to me as addressing drunk driving by taking car keys away from teetotalers simply because it would reduce the number of cars on the road,” he said. “So I asked for data on the number of firearms-related crimes committed by permit holders. We found out there is none.”

He asked for demographic data on who holds the permits. The largest increase in concealed-carry permits has been among African Americans.

CdeBaca argued the new law would be selectively enforced and aimed at people of color.

“This one in particular is painful, as a person of color, as someone who has been affected by police excessive use of force in our family, in our community,” she said. “We just opened the doors to justify it, and when the first case happens, I hope that everyone on this dais knows that there is blood on their hands.”

The ban now goes to the mayor’s desk for approval or veto.

Correction: An earlier version of this story had the wrong vote count. We regret the error. 

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