DENVER — One of the most progressive members of the Denver City Council told fellow council members on Monday that any death caused from enforcement of a new ban on licensed concealed carry of guns in Denver’s parks would be their fault.
“I’m really disappointed in my colleagues today,” Candi CdeBaca said after the council voted 9-3 to ban concealed carry, with small exceptions, in city and county owned or leased buildings and in city parks. CdeBaca said a concealed carry ban in parks opens the doors to justify excessive use of force. “When the first case happens, I hope that everyone on this dias knows there is blood on their hands.”
CdeBaca, who has often battled with her fellow council members and is known for controversy on the board, presented an amendment to the bill that would have removed parks from the concealed carry ban that goes into effect as soon as signage is put in place.
The amendment failed 9-3 with CdeBaca, Kevin Flynn and Jamie Torres all voting in favor of the amendment. The subsequent vote to pass the bill, including parks, passed on a 9-3 vote, with the same three council members voting against.
The ordinance is a non-criminal violation, with fines of up $999. The new rules are a result of Senate Bill 21- 256, which was 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.”
Justifying excessive force
CdeBaca argued a ban on concealed carry in parks would open the door for racial discrimination and allow police to justify the use of excessive force. She said without a plan in place on how complaints would be handled, parks needed to be removed from the ban.
“By nature a cc permit holder is not brandishing or showing you their weapon,” CdeBaca said. “No enforcement plan was supplied to us.”
She used an example from a couple years ago when a call was made alleging someone had a gun on them at a Denver park.
“The police response to that kind of allegation is to show up guns drawn,” CdeBaca said. “Regardless of whether that person has a weapon or not. Community members watched this happen, and this is what doesn’t sit right with me. We just spent the last two years learning what the use of excessive force can lead to, and this policy single handedly justifies an excessive use of force in any case where someone is accused of having a gun on them.”
Flynn agreed, adding that he asked the District Attorney’s office and the police department if concealed carry permit holders were behind any of the violent crimes in Denver.
“If it were happening, we’d have some data on it,” Flynn said. “This makes about as much sense to me as addressing drunk driving by taking car keys away from teetotalers simply because we’ll reduce the number of cars on the road.”
Flynn noted that since 2017, there have been 17 concealed carry permits revoked, out of 16,718 total permits. Of those 17, 10 permits between 2017 and 2019 were revoked because the permit holder had been arrested, but it was not known if it was in connection to a gun problem.
“So, in essence we don’t have any data to support passing this other than to feel good for reducing the number of weapons in a park,” Flynn said, adding that the diversity of those in agreement with CdeBaca’s amendment made a strong argument for its support.
“I feel like I’m in a political Bermuda triangle right now because I find myself in agreement with Councilwoman CdeBaca,” Flynn said. “But we are also in agreement with David Kopel of the Independence Institute.* And I don’t think you can find two more opposite individuals on this issue than Councilwoman CdeBaca and the Independence Institute, David Kopel in particular.”
Concealed carry licensees exceptionally law abiding
Flynn’s reference to Kopel was in response to an open letter Kopel sent the Denver City Council addressing concerns raised about licensed concealed carry at the April 13 meeting of the Committee on Safety, Housing, Education & Homelessness.
Part of Kopel’s arguments were that concealed carry permit holders are much less likely to be arrested for any crime than non-concealed carry permit holders.
“Coloradans without a concealed handgun permit are about 39 times more likely to be arrested than persons who have a CHP. There is one arrest per 25 persons for the general population, versus one arrest per 986 persons for CHP holders,” Kopel wrote.
Kopel, who is the Research Director of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver and an Adjunct Professor of Advanced Constitutional Law at the University of Denver law school, has been at the forefront of gun debate in Colorado and nationally lately.
He most recently was on a panel of experts who presented testimony to the Edgewater City Council concerning a laundry list of potential new gun ordinances. Of nearly two dozen possible new laws, the list was trimmed to just open carry inside city limits, and that ordinance is also still not completely assured, as it is pending a decision by the United States Supreme Court, which Kopel wrote an amicus brief for as well.
And just last week the 9th Circuit court of appeals struck down a California ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults between 18- to 20-year-olds. Kopel’s research was cited in that decision.
“I am physically sick to my stomach,” CdeBaca Tweeted after the meeting. “Council just approved a ban on CCW in parks that’ll justify racial profiling & responding guns drawn to allegations of a gun. No proof needed. No data backing this ban except that last year Black ppl had the highest rate of CCWs approved. Shame.”
*Independence Institute is the publisher of Complete Colorado
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