Aspen City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday night that bans open carry guns in city hall, but it is not yet decided what other buildings will also be included in the measure.
The ordinance specifically applies to bringing weapons into city council chambers when council is in session. All other instances are subject to a notice near all building entrances.
“No person, other than a peace officer, shall carry, bring or possess a deadly weapon in any public building owned by the city and open to the public if the city manager has posted a sign to that effect at every public entrance to the building,” the ordinance states.
City Attorney Jim True said the Aspen police station, the Red Brick, Yellow Brick, Wheeler Opera House and the Aspen Recreation Center are also all being considered. The final list of which of the city-owned buildings get the notices posted is determined by the city manager. Other public spaces such as city parks are not included in the new law.
Council cited employee safety as the driving factor behind the new provision.
“I think more guns make for a less safe environment,” Councilmember Ward Hauenstein said.
The majority of public comment consistent of gun activists voicing their concerns about the measure. Many held the opposite view of Hauenstein, and said that fewer guns made for an unsafe environment, especially in the case of an active shooter.
Two city employees were among those who spoke during the public comment portion of the hearing. City Clerk Linda Manning attended the meeting as a member of the public instead of in her professional role Tuesday, in order to speak during public comment.
“This ordinance will keep law abiding citizens from entering the building with a firearm, but it will not stop the person who is intent on doing something bad,” Manning said.
Tracy Terry is among the first employees the public sees when entering city hall. When first proposed, the policy banned all guns within the building, but the measure was changed to only include open carry — or visible — guns prior to this week’s second reading.
“I appreciate the amendment to the ordinance, but it also makes me wonder why we need to do it at all,” Terry said. “I just don’t think that this actually makes us safer.”
Concealed carry with a permit is still allowed due to a Colorado statute that restricts regulations on gun possession. The Aspen ordinance has a clause that would automatically ban concealed weapons along with open carry if the state statute were to be repealed.
Terry and Manning also spoke against the city employee policy that keeps staff from possessing a gun while at work. They both said they would feel safer if they were allowed to bring their guns to work to be used in self defense in the event of a shooting. City council does not set employee policy.
Mayor Torre said that the employee policy banning guns at work weighed into his decision to vote in favor of the ordinance.
“We do have an employee no-carry policy here. I would feel very uncomfortable allowing someone to open carry, when my employees are not in a position to defend,” Torre said.
The reading ordinance was scheduled as the last order of business for the night. A group of more than 10 dissenters sat through the entire council meeting, which began at 5 p.m., in order to voice their concerns about the ordinance to council.
Lauren Boebert was among a group of women who attended the meeting with holstered firearms visible. The group questioned the legality of the ordinance and said they feared continued government overreach.
“This ordinance is unconstitutional and violates the law of the land,” said Boebert. “If the Second Amendment will not be held in high regard by the city of Aspen, what other rights are you prepared to trample on?”
Longtime local Phyllis Bronson and former mayor Mick Ireland both spoke in support of the ordinance.
Each member of the council and Mayor Torre thanked the public for taking the time to voice their concerns. But in the end, they said passing the ordinance makes staff and the community feel safer.
“I personally have no prejudice against open carry or concealed weapons,” Torre said. “But the people that I represent in Aspen, the majority that I have spoken to have asked me to support this and they support this and therefore I will tonight.”