Sunday, June 4, 2023

Democrat proposal to ban openly carrying guns at Colorado polling places clears first hurdle

Openly carried firearms, while legal in much of Colorado, are closer to being prohibited at ballot drop box and voting locations as lawmakers try to ease the minds of voters who may feel menaced by armed people while casting their votes.

Under the Democrat-led Vote Without Fear Act, it would be a misdemeanor to openly carry a firearm at or within 100 feet of a ballot drop box, building with a polling location, central counting facility or other places where election administration is happening.

It would exempt private property owners openly carrying firearms on their property and law enforcement officers. The prohibition also does not include concealed firearms.

The bill, HB22-1086, passed its first committee Monday on a party-line vote. The House State, Civic, Military, & Veterans Affairs Committee sent the bill to the full House of Representatives for consideration, with seven Democrats in favor and four Republicans opposed.

Proponents argued some people are openly carrying guns as tools of intimidation, and cited the country’s history of Jim Crow-era voter suppression and today’s on-edge discourse around election laws and lies about the 2020 presidential election.

“We have a long history of people being intimated with firearms, and quite frankly the people who tend to intimidate bring them for a reason, because of how final the outcome could be,” sponsor Rep. Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver, said.

Supporters of the bill included local election officials, including Adams County Clerk and Recorder Josh Zygielbaum saying he wears a bulletproof vest on occasion and Denver County Clerk and Recorder Paul D. López likening some of the intimidation efforts to terrorists when people can’t tell if the armed people are friends or foe.

Sponsoring Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, characterized the bill as about voting rights, not gun rights.

“We’re not taking anything away from anybody,” Sullivan said. “We just want people who are there to vote to be able to go and vote freely.”

While the bill aims to help voters who may feel intimidated by openly armed people at polling places, its opponents largely questioned it from the opposite pole: What about people who fear areas where only people willing to flout the law are armed?

“Frankly, I fear gun-free zones, and this bill essentially creates a fear for people who believe the same as me,” committee member Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, said.

Neville cited the shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, which he called a “gun-free zone,” where two students killed classmate Kendrick Castillo and wounded eight others in 2019.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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