Civil Liberties, Edgewater, Featured, Jefferson County, Local Gun Rights, Original Report, Sherrie Peif

Emails show Edgewater councilwoman coaching anti-gun activists; regional effort revealed

EDGEWATER — Emails obtained by Complete Colorado show an Edgewater City Councilwoman has been working on enacting local gun rights restrictions alongside other Colorado communities since late 2021 and worked in close partnership with anti-gun advocacy groups to present a decidedly one-sided presentation on gun violence to her fellow council members.

In fact, in the emails — which were initially obtained by Edgewater resident Larry Welshon through an open records request and then forwarded to Complete Colorado — show that Councilwoman Hannah Gay Keao not only helped write and edit a presentation given by the Colorado Ceasefire gun control group at an April 5 city council meeting, but also instructs others on what to say during testimony for both the April 5 meeting and a subsequent April 19 meeting to discuss a laundry-list of potential ordinances targeting gun owners.

Edgewater is a metro-area home rule city of just over 5,000 people bordered by Denver to the east, Lakewood to the south and west, and Wheat Ridge to the north.

Emails show coordinated effort

From late December through April 19, Keao has had a series of conversations with other anti-gun activists about the best way to get the ordinances passed in Edgewater. Emails show she is part of an effort involving several other communities working together behind the scenes to pass similar laws by summer. She expressly tells people what to say and when to testify to get the best reception from her fellow council members.

Keao also enlisted the help of anti-gun advocacy groups to present data and other testimony and give recommendation on how to craft the ordinances — all of which she helped write behind the scenes.

She actively recruits people to testify and uses her private google drive to send them documents outlining what to say.

Complete Colorado has read through the enormous amount of emails provided by Welshon to verify the statements and the following lists the highlights of those conversations, summarizing much of what was said and directly quoting from those emails.

On April 5, the Edgewater City Council heard a presentation on gun violence prevention from Colorado Ceasefire, an anti-gun rights organization, and subsequently decided to move forward with a more detailed discussion on possible municipal ordinances. Such local gun rights restrictions would be allowed under Senate Bill 21- 256, passed during last year’s legislative session and signed into law by Governor Polis. SB 256 unwound decades of state preemption and allows local governments to manage their own gun laws, but only so long as they are more restrictive than those at the state level, a condition that has been referred to as a “bastardization of the concept of local control.”

Keao’s emails with Ceasefire Colorado, Mom’s Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety and others, appear to show that Keao hoped to convince fellow council members to enact a laundry list of new restrictions that included open and conceal carry bans both on city and private properties, gun and ammunition bans, and new regulations for Edgewater’s one gun dealer.

Complete Colorado article bringing to light the city’s first meeting as well as the restrictions up for consideration caused numerous residents and others to show up both in the council chambers and online at the April 19 meeting in opposition to the proposed restrictions.

At the April 19 meeting, council scaled back the list significantly to include further discussion of open and conceal carry bans on city property and in daycares and preschools, bans of so-called “ghost guns,” and a waiting period for the sale of firearms.   They also publicly committed to hear perspectives other than from anti-gun activists to bring some balance to the discussion moving forward.

Although it is common practice for a city council member to work with city staff and others to bring information to the board on a topic requested by that council member, Keao emails show a pattern of constructing the entire process and playing a role in writing the presentations.

Highlights from the emails:

    • In late December, Keao organizes a conversation about “gun violence” with Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Maya Haasz, as recommended by Dr. Annie Andrews, also a pediatrician and “super active in Moms Demand Action,” as well as Dr. Emmy Betz from UC Health. Both doctors are asked to talk about the “data from an adult perspective.”
    • On Feb 3, 2022, Keao emails Tom Mauser, father of a Columbine High School shooting victim and current board member of Colorado Ceasefire, which was started after the Columbine shooting and Ellen McCarron, Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action board president about her plans for the April 5 meeting. In the email she tells the two, “Tom, I looked through your slides, I love a lot there and think we can keep some, condense some, and add a section on possibilities for Edgewater … We have draft ordinance language from Everytown and Giffords too, and folks from there could tag in as well.”
    • On Feb 8, Keao again emails Mauser to let him know she further revised his presentation: “Hi! I added a few comments and asks in your presentation Tom – see attached.”
    • On March 18, Keao has a series of emails with several different people about the April 5 council meeting:
      • The city manager with a request for armed security at the April 5 meeting. “While I don’t anticipate getting a ton of attention beyond our borders, I have been told that it may be good to have police available when we talk about Gun Violence Prevention. Other places have had some scary people share [sic] up to the meetings …”
      • Kathleen Charles and Abbey Fanslow, fellow Moms Demand Action volunteers, to let them know the first meeting is set for April 5 and that she will also be reaching out to other “Moms volunteers.” She asks them to hold a lot of their testimony until the second meeting and asks them to “float” that date with other volunteers.
      • Jefferson County Commissioner Lesley Dalhlkemper to “brainstorm” about gun legislation.
    • On March 30 Keao emails Mauser again to discuss his presentation. “I’d def like to get eyes on it before Tues.”
    • On March 31, Keao instructs the town manager to “make sure to call it Gun Violence Prevention” everywhere. She also emails Mauser and McCarron to let them know the council has “deliberately preceded this discussion with a discussion on mental health at our last meeting and are simultaneously working on a community wide mental health plan, including stronger resources for our police and first responders.”
    • On April 1, Keao suggests they change the language in their presentation to “safer gun laws” rather than “stronger gun laws.”
    • Keao has a series of emails over the course of several weeks between her and anti-gun supporters in Edgewater encouraging them to show up and testify. She helps them narrow their comments to what she believes will “go a long way” with other council members.
    • On April 12, Keao emails Charles and Fanslow again telling them the next meeting is scheduled for April 19 and asks them to get volunteers to email council members or give public comment. She then shares a google doc from her own personal server that the city would not release to Welshon without a new CORA request. Keao says the google doc contains: “everything you and they need to know.” Welshon subsequently got access to the google doc. However, because it was not on city servers, there is no way to know what, if anything, may have been changed in the time between the requests. The document Welshon did receive was an outline of what speakers or emailers should address and what would be most effective.
    • On April 15, Keao puts out more requests for Moms Demand Action volunteers and others to speak at the April 19 meeting. “Hi there – just following up if you think you or anyone else from Moms may be able to speak on April 19! Here’s what’s been sent out to Council and posted for the public – the presentation from Ceasefire last meeting and a summary of potential ordinance contents. If attendance isn’t in the cards outreach via email could still help. … You know the issue, I think the clutch things to share why this legislation in Edgewater is important to kids and families outside of our city too – that you visit here, or that you hope your community and the state follow suit, etc. Saying you’re both a Coloradoan and a Moms Leader is fabulous; there’s clearly a reason you’re dedicated to the issue and you that [sic] stories go a long way.”
    • On April 18, the morning before the meeting, Keao emails McCarron asking her to “summarize again at a high level, each of the three categories of legislative options.” She then points out and supplies McCarron with a link to Complete Colorado’s first story telling McCarron that “we’ve been getting quite a bit of outreach following its publication.”

Regional effort revealed

Edgewater City Council is set to have a third work session on the topic, at 6:30 p.m., May 3. Complete Colorado will continue to cover this topic.


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