Commissioners opt out of new state gun control law

Firearms allowed in county’s public buildings but not courtrooms

By Katherine Nettles

Gunnison County commissioners have opted out of a new Colorado state law that went into effect this month prohibiting the carrying of firearms in certain public buildings such as government offices, polling spaces and schools. The opt-out does not include the judicial chambers of the county courthouse, but applies to the county manager’s office, county department offices and the commissioners’ meeting room. Commissioners expressed their intent to engage the issue more in the future as they consult with other county departments and constituents. 

The Colorado General Assembly passed the law, Senate Bill 24-131, in the spring and Governor Jared Polis signed it at the end of May. It prohibits carrying firearms in certain public buildings considered “sensitive spaces” effective July 1, 2024. Law enforcement, military and security personnel are exempt, and Colorado statute allows local governments to opt out of the prohibitions by adopting a resolution stating as much.

Gunnison County commissioners passed the resolution unanimously at their June 25 meeting opting out of the law, stating that the commissioners’ meeting room and county manager’s office located in the Gunnison County Courthouse constitute “the chambers or galleries of [the County’s] local governing body” as described in the new law, therefore making it an issue for those who carry weapons permits and want to bring them to work. 

County manager Matthew Birnie also confirmed to the Crested Butte News that this opt-out applies to the public, so any person with a license can bring firearms into county meetings or county offices—just not the courts.

The resolution states that “Persons are permitted to carry firearms on the property of and within the Gunnison County Courthouse,” except the portions of the courthouse referred to as judicial sections.” 

The resolution continues, “Due to the recent passage of Senate Bill 24-131, the [board of county commissioners] desires to maintain the current status quo with regard to firearms in county buildings while it and county staff further evaluate, with public engagement and consultation with the judicial branch and the Gunnison County Sheriff, the societal, public safety, building security, financial and legal impacts of whether to continue to allow the carrying of firearms in the county courthouse and other county buildings.” 

Birnie said he and other staff and elected authorities in the county government have at various times in the past carried weapons with permits.  

“We have had many county officials over the years who regularly carry firearms and they have concealed carry permits which include background checks,” said Birnie. “Anyone who intends to do harm will not care that the new law would make bringing a gun into the building illegal as they are already intent on illegal acts. The only people that law would affect is law abiding people who would not be able to protect themselves.” 

County attorney Matthew Hoyt said he believed the law originated after an incident in front of the Colorado Supreme Court earlier this year. USA Today and other national and state media outlets reported the incident as stemming from a two-vehicle crash that took place outside the building in downtown Denver on January 2. One of the drivers pointed a gun at the other driver, then shot at a window of the judicial center before entering the center, holding an unarmed guard at gunpoint and travelling up to another floor where he fired several additional shots. No one was reported as injured or killed. 

The bill was sponsored by state senator Sonja Jaquez Lewis, state senator Chris Kolker, state representative Kyle Brown and state representative Mandy Lindsay. 

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