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Jeffco sheriff gets authority to prohibit openly carrying guns in county buildings

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Commissioner Rosier opposed to ordinance

By Ramsey Scott

The Jeffco county commissioners approved an ordinance Thursday that allows the sheriff to prohibit openly carrying firearms in designated county buildings despite Commissioner Don Rosier’s concern that the ordinance left too many questions unanswered.

The ordinance, approved on a 2-1 vote with Rosier dissenting, directs the sheriff to conduct yearly vulnerability assessments of county buildings and to decide whether the open carrying of firearms should be banned.

Rosier said the ordinance raised too many questions, and he didn’t like that the Sheriff’s Office could prohibit the open carrying of firearms in county buildings without coming before the commissioners.

While Commissioners Faye Griffin and Casey Tighe expressed their support for the measure, Rosier grilled Sheriff Ted Mink and Assistant County Attorney Writer Mott about the proposal. 

After the ordinance passed, Mink asked County Attorney Ellen Wakeman if he could withdraw the ordinance since he had proposed it. Wakeman said since it had passed, it was law and could be changed only by the commissioners. 

Mink said after the meeting he was annoyed that so many questions were raised by Rosier even though the commissioners had been discussing the proposal for a while.

“I was a little bit upset. I would have preferred it be unanimous,” Mink said after the meeting. “The fact that it was a second reading (and) we’ve been discussing this before, I was surprised. I was to a point where I thought, ‘Maybe it’s not worth it.’ ”

The ordinance came about after two incidents last month in which people carrying firearms — one at the Sheriff’s Office and the other at the human services building in the Jeffco government complex — caused a disturbance and, according to the sheriff’s report, made employees fear for their lives.

The ordinance would not prohibit anyone with a concealed-carry permit from having a concealed firearm. Anyone caught with an open firearm in a designated no-open-carry area could be charged with a class 2 petty offense and be assessed a $300 fine.

However, Mink said that if deputies see someone openly carrying a firearm in a building with a ban, they would seek voluntary compliance before writing tickets or making arrests. 

Mink said that previous to this ordinance, his deputies could only ask that people take their guns back to their cars or leave. 

“We had no enforcement capabilities before this resolution,” Mink said. 

 

Rosier’s concerns

Rosier said his concerns with the ordinance had not been adequately addressed by Mink.

In addition, with the new ordinance, county employees with a concealed-weapon permit must abide by the ordinance, which potentially could put them in danger, Rosier said.

Rosier asked what a “vulnerability assessment” entailed, how the ordinance would be applied in county buildings in cities like Golden, which already have bans against the open carrying of firearms in public buildings, and what would happen if a concealed weapon became visible in a building with an open-carry ban.

Mink agreed that the criteria for a vulnerability assessment should be included in the ordinance and made as public as possible, so the people know what to expect when walking into a county building.  

Mink also said his deputies currently enforce county laws in county-owned buildings in places like Golden that have different laws. He didn’t think it would cause problems as long as the ordinance prohibiting the open carrying of firearms was clearly posted. 

Mott said that, under Colorado law, a concealed firearm must remain concealed in public, and that would remain true under this ordinance as well. 

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.