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Local governments opting out of ‘sensitive spaces’ gun ban as new law goes into effect

WESTMINSTER–A new state law banning the carrying of any firearms in certain areas supporters like to refer to as “sensitive spaces,” includes a section that allows local Colorado governments to opt-out of the ban.  The number of jurisdictions exercising that option continues to grow, with the opt-out recently brought up in both Weld County and the City of Westminster.

As of July 1, Senate Bill 24-131, “Prohibiting carrying firearms in sensitive spaces,” bans the carrying of firearms, concealed or open in:

  • State legislative buildings
  • The building of a local government, including buildings at which the offices of elected members or the chief executive officer of local government are located
  • A courthouse or other building used for court proceedings.
  • Any licensed child care center, public or private elementary school, middle school, junior high school, high school, vocational school or any public or private college, university or seminary.

The final bill signed by Governor Jared Polis was a watered-down version from the first attempt, which included everything from daycare facilities and movie theaters to parks and churches among other places – including the sidewalks around them.

Local governments opting out

The new law makes it a misdemeanor to carry a gun, even if you hold a concealed handgun permit (CHP), in any one of the banned spaces. The new law also covers lawmakers in the state Capitol beginning January, 2025. Until now, the public was unable to carry in the legislative buildings, but lawmakers were free to carry concealed.

However, the bill does specify that “a local government may enact an ordinance, regulation, or other law that permits a person to carry a firearm at places described” in the bill.

Douglas County Commissioners enacted the opt-out back in May, citing the long American tradition of the ability to protect oneself.

“I’m very critical of this new state law,” said Commissioner George Teal in a press release. “We are a nation that was built on the principle of the right to keep and bear arms.”

Fellow commissioner Abe Laydon called Douglas County a “constitutional county.”

“Douglas County’s opting out of the requirements of the onerous SB24-131 allows visitors to county facilities and properties the ability to protect themselves as they choose,” added Commissioner Lora Thomas.

The resolution, however, only affects county buildings and spaces. Municipalities within Douglas County will still be bound by the law unless they also opt out, which it appears at least one community plans on doing.

At its first meeting in June, the Castle Rock Town Council passed an “emergency ordinance” blocking the restrictions.

Also in June, Logan County on the Eastern Plains opted out, while commissioners in Routt County in northwest Colorado unanimously approved an opt-out resolution at a July 1 meeting, the same day the new law went into effect.

Other municipalities known to have passed similar resolutions include Monument and Palmer Lake in El Paso County.

Opt-out grows

Weld County is currently in the process of opting out as well, said Weld County Commissioner Chairman Kevin Ross.

First reading was June 10, where it passed unanimously with some discussion on whether to include the word “property,” which would include the county jail. Currently the sheriff does not allow the public or any one other than certified officers to carry.

Weld County attorney Bruce Barker told the commissioners that in the end, the keeper of the jail is Sheriff Steve Reams.

“If he says yeah, bring your weapons in, OK, you can do it,” Barker said. “If he says no, you can’t bring weapons in.”

Third and final reading is scheduled for the commission’s July 8 meeting.

Although city staff has recommended against it, the City of Westminster in the north metro-Denver area is also considering opting out. The debate was initially scheduled for the June 24th meeting but was pulled from the agenda and placed on a future schedule.

That didn’t stop the usual testimony of members of Mom’s Demand Action, a radical gun control group funded in part by New York Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who often mobilize in communities where gun restrictions may be lifted or repealed.

Kathy Kelly, a volunteer with the local chapter spoke out during the public comment section of the meeting, telling the council that while “some” concealed carry holders are trained, “many concealed carry members have not yet, even had to demonstrate capability with a gun, other than to load the gun itself.”

“It is a misconception that if you are a concealed carry (permit holder) you are more trained,” Kelly continued, adding the contentiousness in political meetings is ripe for violence and the law passed by Colorado necessary to ensure everyone’s safety.

Kelly’s remarks are not accurate by any account. Colorado’s conceal carry laws require the applicant, among other requirements, to demonstrate competency by completing a CHP course that includes everything from firearm safety rules, firearm handling, safe storage, and transportation to situational awareness, firearm maintenance, legal use of force, and CHP responsibility, among other topics.

In fact, data compiled by Second Amendment scholar David Kopel shows that concealed carry permit holders are actually more law abiding than the public at large,

This isn’t the first time Westminster has been divided over gun rights. In June 2021, the council opted against passing a gun violence awareness proclamation that was presented by Mom’s Demand Action, causing controversy in the community.

Westminster will bring the topic back before the full council on July 8. Complete Colorado will continue to follow its progress and any other communities that may opt out as well.


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