Jefferson County approves ordinance to prohibit openly carried weapons in some government buildings

Sheriff to conduct vulnerability assessment

GOLDEN, Colo. - Jefferson County commissioners gave approval Tuesday to an ordinance that will allow the Sheriff to ban the open carrying of firearms in select county buildings.

Requests have already been made for open carry bans in the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office and Department of Human Services.

The new ordinance will apply to county owned or leased buildings that have been deemed “vulnerable” by the Sheriff’s Office, following a vulnerability assessment.

Sheriff Ted Mink told 7NEWS that he proposed the ban after two separate incidents in April where work came to a standstill after individuals walked into offices with visible weapons.

One of the incidents took place at the Department of Human Services, the other at the Sheriff’s Office.

Mink said employees in those two offices, and in the DA’s office, frequently deal with people who are emotionally distraught.

“Emotions are very high,” the sheriff said. “There are child custody issues. There are divorce issues.”

Mink said in both instances deputies encouraged the people with the guns to take their weapons back out to their cars.

The Republican sheriff told 7NEWS that it wasn’t easy proposing the ban, because he supports the Second Amendment.

He said department heads came to him and asked if something could be done.

“If there is something we can do to prohibit those disruptions, I think it’s my obligation to do that,” he said.

Jefferson County residents expressed strong feelings on both sides of the issue during a public hearing Tuesday morning.

“Just because someone is frightened by the sight of a firearm doesn't mean we have to cater to that irrationality,” said B. Lynch, who opposes the ban. “I urge you not to succumb to the recent anti-gun hysteria.”

But James Engelking said the ban doesn’t go far enough. He said he was shocked to learn that people have a right to carry firearms into public buildings.

“I wish that your proposed ordinance would prohibit it,” Engelking said, ”and prohibit it completely.”

Aaron Brown, an open carry proponent, said he was surprised by the proposed ban itself.

“I think it's probably a great solution to a problem that doesn't exist,” Brown said. “It’s a deterrent to crime.”

Brown said criminals who see other people with guns are less likely to commit crime. He used a convenience store as an analogy, saying, “A 7-11 with a cop car in front doesn't get robbed very often.”

Second Amendment attorney Robert Wareham also questioned the wisdom of the ban.

"It's a slippery slope when you start letting people's subjective reaction (to seeing a gun) determine public policy," Wareham said.

Mink told 7NEWS that he’ll conduct a vulnerability assessment if a department head requests an open carry ban.  He said the criteria he'll use in making the assessment will include the possible disruption of service and the concerns of staff in the department.

Mink said he might see no threat, and he would report that back to the department head.

The vote to approve the ban was two to one in favor of it. Commission Chair Donald Rosier voted against it.

“I personally think this takes away from County employees being able to protect themselves,” Rosier said.

Jefferson County District Attorney Peter Weir told 7NEWS on Monday that he understands both sides of the issue, but supports the ban on open carry in some buildings.

“Like it or not, we’re in a dangerous business,” Weir said. “I’m a very strong proponent of the Second Amendment, but first and foremost, security and safety is preeminent for me.”

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