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Out of their cold, dead hands

Council might snatch away right to 'open carry' in city buildings


Vice Mayor Richard Skorman and Councilman - Darryl Glenn are at odds over gun control.
  • Vice Mayor Richard Skorman and Councilman Darryl Glenn are at odds over gun control.

C all them a bunch of radical, anti-gun loonies, but the Colorado Springs City Council is considering banning the open brandishing of firearms inside some city buildings.

The Council, a majority of whose members proclaim themselves strong backers of gun rights, discussed the possibility in a closed meeting about city security measures last week.

The discussion was prompted largely by the actions of Don Ortega, a citizen who has been bringing a shotgun to City Hall when attending recent Council meetings. Several Council members have made public statements in support of a ban, saying Ortega's behavior has caused city employees to feel unsafe. Last week's fatal shooting of a city councilman at New York's City Hall has elevated those concerns, members of the Colorado Springs Council say.

"It's a time bomb waiting to go off," Vice Mayor Richard Skorman said of the current situation, in which anyone who legally possesses a gun can openly carry it inside any city building.

The city used to ban all guns -- whether concealed or openly carried -- in city buildings and parks. But that ban was tossed out last spring, when Gov. Bill Owens signed a new state law that largely prohibits cities and counties from restricting where guns can be carried. The City of Denver is challenging the law in court, but the Colorado Springs City Council declined to join the challenge. "I was the only one who thought that we should," Skorman said.

The state law does, however, still allow cities to ban the open carrying of guns in public parks and buildings. The Manitou Springs City Council recently enacted a ban that applies to city buildings only.

Skorman, usually the Colorado Springs Council's most liberal member, says he'd like to prohibit open carry on all city property, not just inside buildings.

"I don't understand why we should allow open-carry guns anywhere on city property," Skorman said. "Do you want somebody to carry a gun and sit by the Uncle Wilber Fountain? Or by the swimming pool in [Monument Valley] Park?"

However, the majority of the Council probably wouldn't support the ban in parks, Skorman concedes.

Councilman Darryl Glenn, a self-described conservative, agrees. "That's dead on arrival with me," he said. "If we do anything, it's going to be narrowly tailored toward city buildings."

Glenn says he's been getting dozens of e-mails and phone calls from constituents about the issue, and that he hasn't completely made up his mind yet about whether a ban is appropriate inside city buildings.

"My gut sense is we'll probably have to do something," Glenn said.

Bernie Herpin, president of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, a local pro-gun group, said he didn't anticipate major opposition to a ban at City Hall -- even though he argues it would be wrong.

"It's a shame that they're going to curtail the rights of many because of the act of one person," Herpin said.

Though Herpin said he disapproves of Ortega's behavior, he wouldn't want to outlaw it. "It should be the individual's choice" where to carry a gun, "not the government's choice," he said.

Skorman, on the other hand, said there's "no justification" for allowing such behavior.

"This notion of the right to bear arms has gone awry," Skorman said. "It's a free society, yes, -- but not one where people have a right to threaten and intimidate."

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