Pitkin County commissioners ban concealed handguns at polling places
The Pitkin County commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve an emergency ordinance that will prohibit concealed handguns at and within 100 feet of all voting centers and polling places.
The Colorado Legislature previously approved a law to ban open carrying of firearms in and around voting centers. Pitkin County wanted to beef up the ban. The county government will have signs printed as soon as possible that say “No firearms, open or concealed.”
The concealed handguns ban is largely symbolic. After conferring with Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, the commissioners decided it would be too costly to install metal detectors at three polling places established for the current primary or the general election in November.
DiSalvo said the ban would still be worthwhile.
“I hate to say this, but we’re running out of safe places,” DiSalvo said. As national events have shown, gun violence can happen anywhere, he said.
He estimated there are “hundreds” of concealed handgun permits issued to residents of Pitkin County. Additional people are packing under permits from states with reciprocal agreements with Colorado. It will be virtually impossible to know if people are walking into a polling place with their handgun discreetly tucked away.
“We can’t find the concealed weapon unless we’re looking for it,” DiSalvo said.
The state ban on open carrying of weapons has been on the books for some time, and it’s never presented an issue, the sheriff said.
If election judges suspect someone of packing, discreetly or not, they will call 911 and seek help from the sheriff’s office. Someone violating Pitkin County’s new ban would be face a civil penalty of $50 for the first offense, according to County Attorney John Ely.
Commissioner Steve Child said prior to the vote he was struggling on the issue. “Good citizens” will leave their weapons at home while “bad actors” will still carry, he said.
“I’m not convinced passing this is going to make it safer in the polling place,” Child said.
The prohibition will be in place through the calendar year.