LYONS — It appears the Lyons Board of Trustees will make their small, western-Boulder County town of 1,500 residents the newest community to implement local gun rights restrictions.
On Aug. 15, the seven-member board voted unanimously on first reading to ban open carry of firearms in all public places within town limits, as well as advancing a ban on the manufacture or sale of certain firearms and ammunition in the commercial downtown district.
Trustees say these ordinances will help prevent gun violence; however, no evidence was offered that Lyons has experienced a level of gun violence that would make residents fear for their safety inside the foothills town.
The local restrictions are possible after Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 256, passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature in 2021. The new law 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, meaning the law only allows for a one-way ratcheting up rather than true local control.
Private businesses excluded
Different from some of the other ordinances around the area, however, is the open carry ban does not prohibit someone from carrying a weapon in their vehicle. It also doesn’t apply to the inside of private businesses.
“That private business owner is still free to prohibit the carrying of firearms of any kind,” Town Attorney Brandon Dittman said. “This is only for public places, on the streets, on the sidewalks, in the parks.”
As it is now, numerous towns and cities in Boulder County, as well as the county government itself have taken advantage of the new law, as have some outside Boulder County, including Edgewater in Jefferson County.
Trustee Greg Oetting asked if the town could send the measures to voters instead, but Dittman quickly struck that idea down, telling the board no other community had allowed its citizens to decide for themselves.
“People have to be able to speak publicly about it,” Oetting said. “We can’t just do this.”
Despite his misgivings, Oetting voted yes to move the ban forward.
A public hearing on the open carry ordinance will be held for the second reading on Sept. 6. Complete Colorado will follow the process.
Dittman told the trustees he believes the open carry ban will withstand legal challenge. However, Edgewater City Councilman Bill Berg said when his community passed a similar ordinance that he believes many will now lose their Second Amendment right to protect themselves under all these new open-carry bans.
“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 Edgewater 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.”
Lyons Mayor Pro-Tem Jocelyn Farrell asked whether the trustees could add an amendment that would also ban open carry of firearms in locations where alcohol was sold, but Dittman told the trustees the board doesn’t have the authority to “reach into private businesses and tell them whether they can or can’t allow firearms.”
Trustee Tanya Mercer-Daty pushed the issue further, asking if the town could add a requirement to not allow open carry of firearms to their liquor licensing applications.
“I think when we’re thinking about public safety and were seeing the numbers that are growing constantly day by day, I really worry about how we protect the public,” Mercer-Daty said. “I think alcohol and firearms in the same location, I find that a very scary concept.”
Dittman said he could research the issue, but he had never heard of a situation where that had occurred, and it would probably take several new ordinances to take effect.
Town staff also reminded Mercer-Daty there was still a concealed carry law.
Restricting rights through zoning
Lyons also passed an ordinance to ban firearms and ammunition sales and manufacturing from the commercial downtown district of Lyons. Farrell was the lone no vote, but only because she wanted to explore a stricter ban, including a 1,000-foot distance from protected areas.
Farrell questioned why they couldn’t just include the ban on all of Lyons
“The more you say this use cannot be permitted, potentially it’s subject to a legal challenge,” Dittman said. “Any attorney will tell you, the more you push out the use or an existence, the more it becomes a potential takings issue.”
Lyons Planner Dave Kimmett supported Farrell’s recommendation of banning the sales and manufacturing based on a distance from a “protected” area, such as a school.
“It has generally withstood the scrutiny of potential takings issue,” Kimmett said, citing some towns in the U.S. that had successfully made those types of bans. “You wouldn’t be plowing a new path.”
Dittman told the trustees in his legal analysis he believes the ban as written for the Aug. 15 meeting will withstand legal challenges because it is a zoning issue. He also clarified that although the new amendment doesn’t specifically ban firearms and ammunition sales and manufacturing in other areas of town, they still must be approved by the trustees to operate.
Therefore, the trustees could technically deny all firearms and ammunition sales and manufacturing anywhere in town through the application process.
“This one is even more strongly engrained in U.S. history in where uses occur,” Dittman said. “It is basically as old as the country is itself.”
Earlier this month a US District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the Town of Superior for two of its new gun rights restrictions, including banning the sales of certain weapons.
That 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.
Lawsuits have also been filed against Louisville, Boulder and Boulder County pertaining to their local restrictions on firearm possession and sales.
A date for second reading on the sales and manufacture ban issue was not set. Complete Colorado will continue to follow.
All of Complete Colorado’s coverage of local gun rights restrictions is available here.
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