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Farewell to arms

Council narrowly backs gun restriction in city buildings

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I n some cities, the question of gun control vs. the right to bear arms might be a defining issue separating liberal politicians from conservative ones.

In Colorado Springs, however, the dividing line is usually between ultraconservatives and mere conservatives as illustrated by the City Council's narrow decision Tuesday to ban the open brandishing of guns in city buildings.

Even that restriction -- one of the few local gun-control measures still allowed since last spring, when Gov. Bill Owens signed a new state law taking away most rights of cities and counties to regulate firearms -- barely passed, on a 5-4 vote.

Supporting the ban were Mayor Lionel Rivera, Vice Mayor Richard Skorman and council members Margaret Radford, Jerry Heimlicher and Scott Hente. Opposing it were councilmen Randy Purvis, Larry Small, Darryl Glenn and Tom Gallagher.

Opponents cited concerns about violating the Second Amendment, echoing complaints from several members of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, a local gun-rights group, who testified against the ban.

"I can't think of a reason good enough to abridge a constitutional right," said Small.

Supporters, meanwhile, said the right to bear arms shouldn't override the rights of city workers, and citizens attending city meetings, to feel safe in public buildings. Many have expressed fear since a local resident, Don Ortega, began bringing a shotgun to Council meetings recently, and 136 city employees signed a petition supporting the ban.

"Somebody bringing a weapon into the Council chambers is irresponsible," Rivera said in backing the ban. "Why are we encouraging irresponsible behavior?"

Skorman, often considered the Council's lone liberal, seemed to be having an Alice-in-Wonderland experience as the discussion unfolded before him.

"Why do you need to carry a gun into City Council?" he asked the ban's opponents incredulously. "Do we hunt in here?"

-- Terje Langeland

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