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Gun debate shifts from state to local level

10:06 PM, Jan 15, 2014   |    comments
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KUSA-- Colorado's next battles over gun rights will come not from the Capitol, but from the local level.

Democrats is the state legislature got most of what they wanted last year, and don't want to stir up this debate again in an election year.

Republicans at the state Capitol would love to roll back gun control, but lack the votes and are likely to see each of their proposals die without reaching a full floor vote.

Where you will see action on the issue is at town hall in Castle Rock, Colo., where you find a warning printed on the front door cautioning against openly carrying in your weapon.

That's due to a 2003 ordinance that the mayor wants to repeal soon.

"Response really has been all over the map," Mayor Paul Donahue said.

In fact, some of his fellow council members don't agree.

"I don't believe that allowing people to openly bring guns into town council meetings and other town meetings, such as the planning commission's meeting, where tempers sometime[s] get hot, is a good idea at all," wrote Councilman Clark Hammelman in a statement to 9NEWS.

But the mayor believes more armed people equals more safety, pointing to recent tragic shootings at schools and movie theaters.

"Firearms were banned in all those areas and yet it doesn't stop any of this insanity," Donahue said.

The council will debate a repeal of its open carry ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday, January 21.

Castle Rock would not be the first to allow open carrying in its facilities, there are several Colorado cities and towns without bans.

The existing ban in Castle Rock applies to more than just town hall. It governs all town facilities, including parks and the recreation center.

Around the spacious kids pool there, moms like Kara Nikanorov weren't thrilled at the idea someone might walk in holding a handgun or rifle.

"It would definitely make me more on edge," Nikanorov said. "If I see somebody suspicious, I might feel more on edge. It wouldn't feel as comfortable."

If she saw a person walk in openly carrying a weapon, not violating the law, she says she might stop coming here.

"Ultimately I just want my family to feel safe," Nikanorov said.

On the other side of the spacious complex, we found pastor Ernest Smith shooting hoops in a pickup basketball game.

He sees both sides of the debate.

"To me either way it's about not living in fear," Smith said. "If you're going to live in fear of guns then you're going to live in fear of everything else as well."

People with permits can already bring concealed guns into the town facilities in questions, so long as they don't bring them out in the open.

Smith doesn't see many people doing that.

"In here most of the guys are wearing gym shorts so it's kind of hard to pack a gun in that," Smith said.

The mayor says open carrying, already legal on sidewalks (and in most public places in Colorado) is even less common.

"We're talking less than .001 percent of the population in Castle Rock," Donahue said. "We've got about 50,000 people here in Castle Rock. If we have four in Castle Rock that actually open carry, I'd be surprised."

Opponents counter by asking why rolling back the ban is necessary.

"It's not something that from a practical measure is going to have a huge effect," Donahue said. "I think it's more from an ideological measure of whether we can ban open carry or not."

As with most ideological issues, there will plenty of vocal debate before this one is settled.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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