In the Denver Post's opinion section yesterday, their 'Day's Worst" item comes from a Durango Herald story that makes public a poorly-kept secret at the Capitol: legislators, generally but not exclusively Republican, routinely violate Colorado law, and carry concealed weapons into the Colorado State Capitol's gun-free zone. The Post says, "If anyone, state lawmakers ought to be aware that no one is above the law. Not even them."
But in many cases, they most certainly do consider themselves "above the law." Herald:
For years, the presence of concealed guns in the state Capitol – supposedly a gun-free zone – has been something that legislators know about but rarely talk about. But during this year’s debate about gun control, a couple of them have hinted at the open secret.
The most recent time was Wednesday, when a University of Colorado student testified for a bill to ban concealed guns from campus, saying that students feel intimidated from debating issues when others are armed.
Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, questioned her.
“Do you understand that there are several guns in this room?” Holbert said.
At that moment, as Hanel reported, there was only one uniformed police officer in the room. He goes on to write that Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, who does have a concealed weapons permit, "declined to say" whether he was packing at the moment of his interview. Longtime Capitol denizens will recall the incident in 2007 that resulted in access to the building being controlled by metal detectors and armed security, an armed mentally ill man who was killed outside Gov. Bill Ritter's office. With that, legislators packing heat began to break the law.
State law prohibits carrying a gun in the Capitol “without legal authority.” The law also prohibits concealed weapons from any public buildings that have permanent security. That includes the Capitol.
To be honest, we're quite surprised at the passive reaction from Democratic Speaker Mark Ferrandino:
Ferrandino, who does not carry a gun himself, said as long as legislators are following the concealed-weapons law, then it’s not a problem.
“I think it’s been commonly known that members have done that, and it hasn’t been raised as an issue,” he said.
The problem with the Speaker's lackadaisical response is that legislators are not following the law (see above) when they bring their concealed weapons into the building. And to be clear,
Through a spokesman, Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said there is no legal exemption for members of the Legislature to carry a concealed gun in the Capitol.
In a recent hearing, GOP Sen. Ted Harvey, another likely heat-packer, was overheard saying that the difference for legislators is they "don't have to go through the metal detectors." So not only do legislators admit to routinely breaking the law, they proudly will tell you it's because they can get around security.
Folks, how the hell is this acceptable behavior? How can lawmakers who acknowledge their own lawbreaking with a smirk be considered responsible lawmakers? Witness the recent case of a Nevada state assemblyman, a Democrat mind you, who was arrested with a gun after threatening his leadership over committee assignments–why should anyone assume that lawmakers are "safe" to carry in a place where no one else is?
The answer is simple: they aren't. This is wrong. And lawmakers need to check their guns at the door.
If need be, put them through the metal detectors like everybody else.