UPDATE: The Jefferson County Sheriff responded to Complete Colorado. That story can be found here.
LITTLETON — A large special district in Jefferson County may be among the first entities in Colorado to test the limits of a new law allowing local governments to enact gun control laws within their jurisdiction.
The ink from Gov. Jared Polis’ pen on a new bill allowing the Foothills Parks and Recreation District (FPRD) to ban all firearms, including concealed carry by lawfully permitted citizens, from its facilities had only been dry for three days when FRPD staff brought up the idea at its board of directors meeting on June 22.
According to those at the meeting, it appeared at first that the board was ready to vote on the ban that night, until it was suggested that they wait for public comment at the next meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 27.
FPRD Executive Director Ronald Hopp confirmed to Complete Colorado that the board has asked its staff to bring forward a concealed carry ban to a future meeting, but was not sure when that would be.
“It hasn’t been confirmed that it will be at the July meeting or not, but at a future meeting the board has asked to add an agenda item to consider adding a concealed carry ban to our existing policy which bans open carry from our parks, trails and facilities,” Hopp said. “Given the new legislation that was approved by the governor and the legislature … they asked to have an agenda item to consider adding concealed carry to that prohibition.”
The bastardization of local control
The legislation Hopp referred to is Senate Bill 21-256, one of the many new gun control measures majority Democrats pushed through along party lines in the 2021 session.
For decades prior local governments were preempted from passing gun control laws, which were considered a matter of statewide interest and thus fell under the purview of the legislature.
Under SB-256, which was signed by Governor Polis on June 19, however, local governments, which include special taxing districts like FPRD, “can enact an ordinance, regulation, or other law governing or prohibiting the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of a firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory that is not less restrictive than state laws governing the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of the firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory.”
While proponents of the new law clam it is simply giving control to local governments to decide gun regulation as they see fit, the statute only allows for laws more restrictive than those at the state level, meaning a local legislative body couldn’t expand gun rights for residents or relax existing restrictions if that’s what they wanted to do.
In a recent Complete Colorado opinion piece, Denver resident Joshua Sharf called SB-256 “a bastardization of the concept of ‘local control.’”
An enforcement nightmare
Former Jefferson County Commissioner, Tina Francone, who alerted Complete Colorado to the possible ordinance, said — aside from her personal objections — there are so many logistical nightmares to banning conceal carry she doesn’t believe it’s possible.
“I’ve lived here for 23 years, and I’ve never heard of a firearms incident at any of the Foothills’ facilities,” Francone said. “Why now? There is not a problem. Why are you spending my tax dollars to solve a problem that is non-existent?”
According to its website, FPRB facilities include three recreation centers, one 2-sheet ice arena, four indoor and four outdoor swimming pools and two indoor sports facilities, 68 park sites totaling more than 2,400 acres and including: four regional parks, 43 community and neighborhood parks, 21 greenbelts and two golf courses (totaling 54 holes). Additionally, Foothills manages six regional trail corridors totaling 14.9 miles for public use, and nearly 18 miles park trails.
Francone said enforcement of such an ordinance would be a nightmare.
According to SB-256 “The local law may only impose a criminal penalty for a violation upon a person who knew or reasonably should have known that the person’s conduct was prohibited.”
In the case of parks, Francone said there is no economical possibility they can fence in or post adequate notice in all the parks.
“You could probably enforce that legislation where you have a physical barrier,” Francone said “But I drove around Clement Park yesterday and there was no indication you can’t even open carry. They don’t even do a good job about telling us about an open carry ban, how are they going to enforce a concealed carry ban?”
Hopp told Complete Colorado they had not discussed enforcement or the complicated logistics that would go along with it.
“That’s a great question that I don’t think I have an answer for,” Hopp said. “I’ve had that thought myself, other than signage that it’s not allowed.”
SB-256 a ‘dumpster fire’
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader did not immediately return requests from Complete Colorado to address issues this could cause his office as the 24.2 square miles of the district are exclusively in unincorporated Jefferson County, according to its website. It serves a population of 93,000 residents.
However, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams said if he were in Shrader’s shoes, he knows exactly how he’d handle it.
“On my list of priorities of where I would send my deputies to, this is at the end of it, minus a few steps,” Reams said. “How are you going to punish someone? How will you know? You talk about a poorly aimed thought process, that’s what this is.
“You are going to disarm people who want to follow the law. Criminals couldn’t care less about a ban on conceal carry or open or whatever. This is a prime example why SB-256 is going to be a dumpster fire.”
Francone said not only is it a logistical nightmare, but it’s a waste of tax dollars, adding if they were to move forward with a vote on this they need to do a study that tells voters exactly what they are going to do, why they need to do it, how they going to enforce it, and what it’s going to cost taxpayers.
“The cost of hardening the perimeter of every Foothills’ facility has to be astronomical and is that a good use of my taxpayer dollars for — if even — a handful of incidents over the past 30 years.”
TO CONTACT THE BOARD MEMBERS —
Bill Meyer, Chair
Michael Bielkiewicz, First Vice Chair
Phillip Trimble, Second Vice Chair
Tim James, Treasure
Kyle Butman, Secretary
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