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Shot down

Proposal to allow people to carry guns in county buildings is DOA

Three El Paso County commissioners have effectively killed a controversial proposal that would have opened the doors to people openly carrying their guns inside public buildings.

At least three commissioners, including Wayne Williams, Sallie Clark and Dennis Hisey, cited widespread opposition, logistics problems and concern about increased security costs in their rationale in nixing the proposal.

Their stance left Commissioner Douglas Bruce hurling accusations that his colleagues had broken a campaign promise to gun-rights activists: that people should be allowed to carry their guns openly. But the three dissenters said they had kept their word by helping create a public discussion about lifting the ban on the open carry of guns in county buildings.

Williams, Clark and Hisey all said the measure is unworkable. Chairman Jim Bensberg declined to state his position.

"We heard pretty overwhelmingly that the public didn't want to see it, and we work for the public," Clark said.

The Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition lobbied hard for the proposal leading up to last year's election. Current commissioners, all of whom belong to the gun group, said they at least supported the concept of carrying guns in public buildings.

But the idea alarmed others. In a handful of polls and surveys conducted in recent weeks, large majorities of county employees and members of the public said they were opposed to allowing people to openly bring their guns into offices. A recent public hearing by commissioners garnered similar results.

"It was the intimidation factor, the fear factor," said Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink, adding that his employees were relieved the measure is dead. "A lot of people just aren't comfortable with that stuff."

Both Clark and Hisey cited concern over potential costs. The lift on the ban, they said, would likely result in costly security guards being posted, especially in the county's main administrative building at 27 E. Vermijo St., as well as Centennial Hall, home of the clerk and recorder. In addition, gun-storage lockers might also have been necessary, further driving up costs.

Bruce disagreed that additional security measures were needed. Hisey, however, said he was sympathetic to officials who would have wanted additional security if the measure were approved.

"There would have been several requests," he said.

Williams said the proposal was too complex to support. Different offices in the same building probably would have required separate rules, creating public confusion, he said.

Bernie Herpin, the president of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, said he was "disappointed, but not upset."

He was also surprised the proposal generated so much uproar.

"I don't think anyone was prepared for the overwhelming outcry," he said.

-- Michael de Yoanna

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