Gun ban in city of Aspen buildings in elected officials’ scope
If Aspen City Council passes a proposed ban on deadly weapons in municipal government buildings Tuesday, the only person in council chambers allowed to carry a gun will be a police officer and individuals who have permits to carry concealed firearms.
Council will consider Tuesday during its regular meeting passing an ordinance prohibiting the possession of deadly weapons in city-owned buildings.
The move is in response to growing concerns of increasing gun violence in the country, and follows in the footsteps of other municipalities that have placed bans in public buildings.
The proposed law, which was reviewed on first reading last month, brought gun advocates from as far away as Garfield County, who criticized council members for impinging on their Second Amendment rights.
Opponents of the proposed law are expected to address council again this week on final reading of the ordinance.
City officials do not plan to install metal detectors or anything similar to know whether people are carrying guns into buildings; the law is simply a symbolic gesture more than anything else, elected officials have said.
There’s been a police officer stationed in council chambers during regular meetings for over a year, due to concerns from city staff and the public regarding specific individuals.
Police presence in council meetings and at the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board of directors meetings has been a constant since at least early 2018 when government antagonist Lee Mulcahy was limited on his access to city buildings.
Earlier this month, council agreed to a $9,000 expenditure for the Aspen Police Department’s 2020 budget to cover the cost of overtime hours for an officer to be present during regular City Council meetings, held the first and third Tuesdays of the month.
Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor told council he needed the additional funds to cover what he believes are his responsibilities to the community.
“While we have one police officer in here we have one fewer member of the staff on shift providing services to the community,” he said. “This $9,000 would enable us to pay for an overtime position to cover that shift.”
In a follow-up interview last week, City Manager Sara Ott said it’s good money spent.
“I don’t think the community expected a reduction in service so I think it’s a small amount of money to address safety,” she said.
Ott added that having a police presence in council chambers is not in response to soley one person, but to a greater overall public safety concern.
She and city officials continue to discuss future security measures for the new municipal office building currently under construction along Rio Grande Place.
“The world has continued to change and some of these violent acts have happened in public meetings,” she said.
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The city of Aspen is moving toward annexing a piece of property at the Airport Business Center to piece together a 10-acre site for affordable housing.