Supreme Court ruling could threaten Denver’s new concealed carry law
On June 23, the United States Supreme Court released a landmark decision that limits the extent to which New York State can restrict the issuance of concealed carry permits. Since this decision is now the law of the land, the 6-3 ruling written by Judge Clarence Thomas could have implications for other states and municipalities, including the city and county of Denver.
“Denver’s ban on guns in government buildings is okay. Banning guns in city parks certainly isn’t,” says David Kopel, research director at the libertarian Independence Institute. . “They should repeal the park ban pretty quickly, or someone, not me, might just sue them and easily make money in attorney fees.”
Kopel, the author of an article cited in the ruling, calls the Supreme Court’s ruling “a landmark day for civil rights.”
In May, the Denver City Council passed a measure prohibiting the concealed carry of firearms in city-owned or leased buildings as well as in city public parks, including all parks in the Denver Mountains. Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson’s office had introduced the proposal as part of Mayor Michael Hancock’s overall effort to strengthen the city’s gun laws.
At the time, Kopel, a longtime Second Amendment advocate, warned both the Hancock administration and the Denver City Council that the Supreme Court case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen , would end soon and Denver would be smart to wait to pass the ban, especially when it comes to city parks. “They would definitely be better off avoiding litigation,” Kopel said at the time.
During the ordinance’s deliberations, Councilman Kevin Flynn had suggested removing the section regarding city parks, wondering if that accomplished anything. Still, Denver officials decided to move forward with passing the law in its entirety.
“I can tell you that the city attorney is aware of the ruling and his office is reviewing it,” Hancock spokeswoman Theresa Marchetta said of the Supreme Court ruling.
The key aspect of this ruling as it relates to Denver’s new law relates to so-called “sensitive locations.” While restrictions on people bringing concealed weapons into such places – including schools, government buildings, courthouses, polling places and legislatures – are considered constitutional, the decision notes that “the Expanding the category of ‘sensitive places’ simply to all gathering places that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ far too broadly”.
Since the ruling did not specifically mention city parks, there is no specific indication of how it might affect Denver’s concealed carry ban in parks. But Kopel thinks the connection is clear.
“For starters, every place that seems to be sensitive is a building, and not just a general building, but a building that has something special about it. Is Washington Park or Denver Park near Evergreen, is it analogous to a courthouse, legislature, polling place, school, or government building?” asks Kopel. “Lawyers can try to make that argument, but I think it’s pretty hard to make a analogy there.”
That’s why he thinks the Denver City Council should repeal the parks aspect of the new ordinance as soon as possible rather than face a lawsuit. “I think their chances of success are pretty slim,” says Kopel. “It’s just going to drive up the tax meter on the fees they’re going to have to pay.”