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Gazette Premium Content County seeks advice on firearms

By PERRY SWANSON THE GAZETTE Updated: March 13, 2005 at 12:00 am
The El Paso County commissioners will hear from other elected officials and the public Monday on whether to reverse a ban on carrying firearms openly in most government buildings.
County leaders are considering a change at the prompting of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, a local group that lobbies for gun rights. El Paso County’s ban has been in place since 1996. Colorado law allows openly carried firearms in most other public places. People who have a permit can legally carry a concealed gun in most government buildings. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has studied the issue for about a month, meeting with the firearms coalition and other leaders, and he plans to present options to the commissioners for a policy change. “For every one who believes there should be complete open carry, there’s one who believes there should be no open carry,” he said. “Being in the middle, I can understand both perspectives.” An opponent of changing the policy is county Assessor John Bass, whose job is to determine the value of property in the county for tax purposes. Bass sent a message to county leaders Friday saying that he won’t allow openly carried guns in his office. He said allowing open carry would make it easier for people who want to hurt county employees and people using government offices. Some who support changing the rule suggested that openly carried firearms should be limited to handguns kept in holsters, Maketa said. Thursday night, though, firearms coalition members voted in favor of urging the commissioners to repeal the open carry ban completely. That would mean people could openly carry any type of legal gun inside government buildings. The law provides an exception for secure government buildings such as a courthouse or jail, where even concealed weapons are not allowed. Several county officials have said they’re concerned about allowing openly carried firearms in places where money is exchanged or emotions run high because of disputes with the government. The Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition argues that the right to carry firearms is guaranteed in the U.S. and Colorado constitutions. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0187 or pswanson@gazette.com PUBLIC MEETING Monday’s meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on the third floor of the County Office Building, 27 E. Vermijo Ave. Anyone can attend and offer opinions to the commissioners.
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