Basalt crowd drills Rippy on redistricting and gun control

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Midvalley residents cordially yet firmly scolded state Rep. Gregg Rippy Thursday for helping the Colorado Legislature strip towns like Basalt of their ability to prohibit carrying concealed weapons.

Rippy, a Republican from Glenwood Springs, was also drilled about a controversial redistricting that his party rammed through the Legislature in the closing days.

Rippy was unapologetic about his stance on both issues, but he and critics in an audience of about 15 people were able to discuss the topics without debate turning nasty.

Several audience members asked him why he supported bills that eroded local control. Basalt had lobbied against the concealed weapons bill and had the power to set its own policy after voters approved a home rule charter last year. Home rule legislation gives towns more leeway to determine their own laws.

The Legislature approved a bill that established a statewide policy allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons without discretion by local law officials. The law overrides any local legislation.

Residents told Rippy they were concerned about the law making it easier for unsavory characters to carry guns.

Rippy countered that the confusing patchwork of laws in Colorado made normal people law-breakers. For example, he said, when he headed east to the plains for pheasant hunting, he broke the law in the city of Denver because a shotgun was in his trunk. It violated Denver’s ban on concealed weapons even though the shotgun was unloaded and in his trunk.

Rippy also complained that laws were often different in the various cities in the metro area, making it impossible to determine when a person was following the rules.

He said he voted for the bill because he thought it best to standardize the regulation across the state. Denver officials have indicated they will challenge the law.

Rippy said he supported the bill even though he is a big supporter of local control, and that he could understand that the concealment issue “probably” should be one of local control.

An audience member who didn’t identify himself scolded Rippy for going along with the Republican majority who voted for the bill rather than supporting local control.

Rippy also voted with his party on redistricting, although he expressed his disgust for the politics surrounding it. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved new boundary lines that are expected to retain or strengthen Republican control in five of seven Congressional districts. Their action superseded redistricting favored by Democrats in 2002.

“Redistricting is the most partisan thing that ever happens,” he said. “Some of us absolutely hated for this to come up. I was one of them.”

But he justified his party’s action by explaining that the Democrat-controlled state Senate wouldn’t work with the Republican-controlled House in 2002 to come up with a redistricting plan. A proposal was forwarded to a judge, who Republicans claim was sympathetic to the Democrats’ plan.

Republicans felt they had a responsibility to undertake a legislative rather than a judicial redistricting this year, Rippy claimed.

“It’s the ugly, seamy side of politics, and I don’t like it,” he acknowledged.

Rippy joked at the end of an hour-long gathering in Basalt that he might need to carry a concealed weapon to deal with an audience like them.

He held nearly a dozen town meetings with constituents last week. The sprawling House District 61 stretches from Silt to Lake City and includes the entire Roaring Fork Valley.

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