EDGEWATER — With only one dissenting vote, the city of Edgewater has officially banned the open carry of firearms, with at least one city council member attempting to tie the carrying of guns to white supremacy.
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.
At a June 7 meeting, Councilmember Hannah Gay Keao — who doubles as a Mom’s Demand Action gun control activist — suggested language be added to the ordinance stipulating that gun violence can be mostly attributed to white supremacy, a trait at least one other council member then connected to right-of-center political ideology.
“I would propose the language say, ‘Whereas the city council finds that open carrying of firearms, during the times of civil protest and unrest tends to exacerbate rather than ameliorate the harm of white supremacy and the potential for violence and death.’”
Councilmember Liam Donevan agreed with Gay Keao but said he didn’t think it fit in this ordinance.
“Overwhelmingly, mass shootings are perpetrated by individuals who are motived by a far-right ideology and white supremacy,” Donevan said. “I agree this is an essential and important part of that conversation, I just don’t know if that is part of the impetus for this specific legislation and the goal of our efforts more broadly.”
Donevan offered no data to back up his claims about mass shootings.
Another council member, Steve Conklin, also said the language wasn’t appropriate.
“I don’t think we’ve had the conversation related to white supremacy directly as it relates to our decisions in regard to this issue,” Conklin said. “Obviously, that’s a terrible issue … I mean you can go through some very specific situations where white supremacy is very much a concern, I just don’t that that it fits given the laser focus that we have here about open carry.”
Gun rights at the local level
Gay Keao, who was heavily supported financially by several anti-gun groups, ran as “gun sense candidate,” which included signing a pledge for Everytown for Gun Safety that said if elected she would “govern with gun safety in mind.”
She has taken that pledge seriously. Gay Keao also has been helping a coordinated effort to push gun rights restrictions across numerous Front Range local governments.
Only Councilmember Bill Berg voted against the ordinance at both the first and second reading, which took place July 19.
City Attorney Thad Renaud said that because the US Supreme Court recently determined that concealed carry could be banned so long as open carry was allowed, he believes the reverse is also true.
Edgewater’s ban on open carry comes after the city council originally sought to enact an unprecedented number of strict gun regulations but scaled back to just the one after an outcry from the public.
Several communities around Edgewater have followed suit with their own gun ordinances. However, a US District Court judge granted a temporary restraining order against the Town of Superior for two of its new restrictions.
The order signals a belief by the court that a ban on the sale of so-called ‘assault weapons’ and the requirement that anyone who owned the weapons prior to the new law be required to get a permit to continue to possess them, as well as restricting where they could be possessed is unconstitutional.
Renaud told the council he predicts with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, there will be many more challenges to various gun rights restrictions in the next few years.
Berg specifically disagreed with Renaud’s interpretation on open carry, saying many may now lose their Second Amendment right to protect themselves under Edgewater’s new ban.
“It is my belief that the ability to open carry a firearm is a fundamental principle of the Second Amendment,” Berg said at the June meeting. “I do realize there are certain restrictions to amendments, like not being able to yell fire in a theater, but I would also point out that concealed carry is a privilege. That privilege is conditional and has financial costs. Some Americans might not be able to afford those financial costs. I feel that a carry ban infringes on the constitution right and you know I was sworn to protect those rights.”
The new ordinance will ban all open carry of a firearm in Edgewater city limits with some exceptions, including:
- A law enforcement officer or someone acting under authorization of federal state or local government or an aid of lawful authorities when they are legally summoned.
- Someone in their own dwelling place of business or on a property owned or under their control
- Transporting a firearm while traveling within a private automobile or other private means of conveyance for hunting or for personal protection.
- Transportation to or from a place of sale or repair or from a previous residence to a new residence
- A collector or licensed dealer and handling or transportation for lawful exhibition or sale.
- Carrying for use in lawfully conducted hunting or shooting
The penalties will not carry criminal charges but include a first-offense fine of $50 and repeat offenses can be up to $999, mandatory community service, firearms education or any combination.
The ‘Latino moms’ argument
Edgewater residents speaking to the board at both meetings were just as passionate as they had been throughout the entire process.
Lindsay Brown told the board she was thankful for the new law because it shows they are working to reduce fear in the community.
“There is zero doubt in my mind that seeing a weapon on someone in public would solicit a fear response from my children,” Brown said. “That response cannot be made to go away by talking to them. … I’ve been trying to understand the purpose of open carry while conceal carry is legal. Why do our weapons have to be seen? My assumptive response is for fear and intimidation.”
But Karen Hing told the council that it’s not government’s job to determine what causes people to feel fear and what doesn’t.
“When I see a full-grown man with tattoos on his face, totally inked up from his ears to is fingertips riding little BMX bike down my ally I feel a bit apprehensive,” Hing said. “When that same guy turns around and drives by my garage again to get a better look at what I have inside it, I do experience fear, but I highly doubt you’d even consider putting age restrictions on BMX bikes or restricting tattoos.
“You acknowledge civil protest and unrest, but guns are not the cause of this unrest. By embracing victim ideology, you are attempting to impose a value system through legislation. I would argue this is causing more civil unrest than people openly carrying guns within the boundaries of Edgewater.”
Resident Joel Newton claimed that Latino women are the most vulnerable to fear of open carry of guns.
“I just think about those Latino moms,” Newton said. “That if they were to walk to their kids’ school and see somebody open carrying a weapon what that would bring about in them.”
Like Donevan and Gay Keao and their claims about mass-shootings and white supremacy, Newton offered no evidence to support his racially-charged claim about Latinos.
Resident Larry Welshon reminded the board that a law enforcement officer recently testified that just four times in his 30 years in Edgewater has he dealt with an open carry issues.
“You are trying to address issues that don’t happen here,” Welshon said. “Blowing through stop signs is a safety issue, not someone walking down the street with a holstered weapon.”
The new law went into effect July 24. Edgewater’s authority to enact gun rights restrictions stems from Senate Bill 256, passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature in 2021 and signed into law by Governor Polis, which 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.
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