LITTLETON —Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader has sent a letter to the Foothills Parks and Recreation District (FPRD) clarifying any role his office would play in a possible future regulation to ban the concealed carry of a firearm by lawfully-permitted citizens on district-managed property.
“I have substantial concern in taking action against an individual who is otherwise acting in a legal and proper manner,” Shrader said in part in the letter.
Shrader’s office sent Complete Colorado, which broke the story outlining the district’s plan, a copy of the letter.
At issue is Senate Bill 21-256, which allows local governments to enact gun control laws within their jurisdiction that are “not less restrictive than state laws governing the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of the firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory.”
In other words, local governments may enact gun regulations only if they are stricter than those at the state level. A local government could not, for instance, expand gun rights or loosen existing restrictions under the new law, as one might expect under the traditional understanding of local control.
It was one of the many controversial measures aimed at restricting the rights of gun owners pushed through by majority Democrats in the 2021 session. What it also does, however, is allow local governments and special taxing districts to enact laws banning concealed carry.
Just three days after the governor signed the new law, FPRD staff asked its board to consider a ban on concealed carry of firearms on its facilities, which 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.
But enforcement of the gun bans and concealed carry bans under the new law are different. While one section of the bill allows for criminal penalties, the concealed carry section only allows for civil penalties.
Although the FPRD, which encompasses 24.2 square miles exclusively in unincorporated Jefferson County, is normally policed by the sheriff’s office when criminal matters are present, Shrader’s letter said this is different.
“Such a resolution or rule “may only impose a civil penalty for a violation and require the person to leave the premises” Shrader’s letter quoted from the bill. “The law is clear that for special districts, a violation is a civil offense and not a criminal offense; therefore, my office will not enforce a resolution or rule that would ban a lawfully permitted individual from carrying a concealed handgun on Foothills’ property. Rather, Foothills would be solely responsible for enforcement of a resolution or rule, if enacted.”
According to Shrader’s letter, the board intends to discuss the proposal at its Aug. 24 meeting. Shrader asked that his letter be considered as part of the board’s decision-making process.
In the letter, Shrader said his office remains “committed to a strong partnership with the Foothills Park & Recreation District,” but regardless of who is responsible for enforcement, he does not support the ban.
“SB 21-256, and subsequent resolutions or rules enacted from it, will only serve to confuse law abiding members of the public who travel through or visit various jurisdictions,” Shrader said. “Community members should not be prevented from protecting themselves and their families as they travel throughout different areas within our communities. I am, and always will be, a proponent of responsible gun ownership. I will continue to promote safe gun carrying practices and continuing education for our citizens who lawfully possess handguns. The role of the sheriff is to keep the peace and to protect individual liberties. It is imperative that our resources remain available for responding to allegations of criminal activity.”
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