City Council to debate firearms ordinance

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Steamboat Springs City Council could make it legal again to carry firearms on sidewalks, streets and private property within the city.

An ordinance is coming before the council tonight that would amend the municipal code that has made it illegal to carry a firearm within the city limits, barring a few exceptions, City Attorney Dan Foote said.

The ordinance will change the code so the open carrying of firearms is allowed unless otherwise posted, Foote said.

The ordinance is a result of Colorado Senate Bill 25, which passed in March ensuring local firearm regulations were not more restrictive than sate law. The law prohibits a local government from adopting regulations that impose greater restrictions on a person's ability to own, possess, carry, use or transfer a firearm.

The reasoning behind the law, Foote said, was to provide those traveling with firearms with assurances that as long as they complied with state law they would not have to fear breaking municipal laws.

Foote said the city's ordinance would have the city post signs at the entrance of all properties owned or leased by the city stating the open carrying of firearms is prohibited. The signs will go up in buildings, city buses, parks and open-space areas.

Although it has been illegal to carry a firearm in the city limits, Foote said, there were some exceptions allowing people to have guns in their homes and to have guns in their vehicles.

City staff considered an ordinance prohibiting the open carrying of firearms on public rights of way, on sidewalks or on streets. Staff dropped the language because it wasn't clear if rights of way were specific areas under the law and because of the cost and visual impact of signage along streets and sidewalks.

With the new ordinance, the open carrying of a firearm in a business is allowed, unless a business posts a sign prohibiting it.

The law does not affect the city's regulations for the carrying of concealed firearms and other weapons.

Some municipalities have questioned if the Legislature has the right to decide how home-rule cities, such as Steamboat Springs, regulate the open carrying of firearms. Denver is litigating the issue, but the outcome of the case is far from finished.

Foote said the city could have joined in the legal battle, but decided to modify its code instead.

"This is an issue that could end up before the Colorado Supreme Court," Foote said. "It could take four years from now if one of the other cities wanted to take it that far."

In his five years at the city, Foote said, there has never been a problem with the open carrying of firearms.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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