May 17, 2022 - News

Denver cracks down on concealed-carry rights

Illustration of shattered glass in the shape of a gun.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Denver is tightening its gun laws amid surging crime and ahead of what some local leaders predict will be a violent summer.

Driving the news: Denver leaders on Monday passed Mayor Michael Hancock's plan to ban concealed-carry weapons in any building or portion of a building that is owned, leased by or to the city — in the name of public safety.

  • The ordinance, which goes into effect upon Hancock's expected signature, also prohibits permit holders from carrying guns in Denver's urban and mountain parks.
  • Enforcement of the ordinance will begin after signage is posted at public entrances of buildings and parks.
  • A first offense would result in up to a $50 penalty. Subsequent offenders face fines as high as $999.

The big picture: Despite a lack of local data linking violence to concealed-carry permit holders, Denver and other cities nationwide have been pressured to respond to crime, which is crippling many metropolitans' urban cores.

What they're saying: Whether Denver's latest crackdown will curb violent crime remains to be seen — but it's likely better than sticking to the status quo, gun policy experts tell Axios Denver.

  • "There isn't great scientific evidence available yet on what the effects of such laws might be," says Andrew Morral, a gun violence researcher at the RAND Corporation.
  • However, "we have seen so many people in the U.S. settle common disagreements with firearms … so keeping guns out of places where they are particularly dangerous is common sense and sensible policy," says Allison Anderman, director of local policy at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The other side: Opponents, including right-to-carry advocates, call Denver's new measure an unsubstantiated overreach that will be ineffective at best.

  • "It is performative rather than practical," council member Kevin Flynn tells Axios Denver.
  • Restricting the rights of concealed-carry gun owners means "you inhibit a person's ability to defend themselves against anyone that would do them harm," critic Tanya Nicholas told council members during public comment earlier this month.

Context: The new gun restrictions are possible after Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill in 2021 following the Boulder King Soopers shooting, granting cities across Colorado jurisdiction to set stricter gun regulations than the state.

  • The move — which made Colorado the first state in the U.S. to overturn its preemption law — allowed Denver to reinstate its concealed-carry ban in city facilities and broaden it by repealing the requirement of metal detectors to enforce prohibition.

What's next: On Denver's heels, Boulder is weighing a handful of new laws to tamp down gun violence and prevent another mass shooting in city limits.

  • The proposals include: banning the sale and possession of assault weapons; outlawing the sale of ghost guns; raising the firearm purchase age to 21; prohibiting "deadly weapons" in city buildings; and restricting the open carry of firearms in public places.
  • A final vote is scheduled for June 7, and three hours have been allocated for a public hearing.

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