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Our View: OK for Durango to prohibit weapons in city buildings

In the 1993 movie “Tombstone,” lawman Virgil Earp, played by Sam Elliott, addresses a rowdy crowd unhappy with a new law he posted. Earp says: “Nobody says you can’t own a gun. Nobody’s even saying you can’t carry a gun. All we’re saying is you can’t carry a gun in town.”

The city of Durango didn’t go this far, but weapons in its public buildings are banned, after an ordinance signed in October 2023, prohibiting “firearms and other deadly weapons.” Signs are going up, if they’re not already posted.

We’re guessing the inclusion of “other deadly weapons” was inspired by the man who brought a hatchet inside City Council chambers for a session addressing the unhoused in spring 2023. (Yes, that actually happened.)

It makes good sense for Durango to ban weapons in public buildings. Ordinance language says: “People are entitled to come to public buildings to conduct business with the city, no matter how high the emotions of the participants or how volatile the subject matter of the business, they are personally safe from violence, abuse or the threat of the same.”

We need places, such as Council chambers, where we can safely express anger and outrage without the concern of things going too far and someone pulling out a gun.

Also, quietly running fingers along the blade of a Bowie knife could be needlessly concerning alongside people conducting business with city clerks or checking out library books or lifting weights at the rec center.

Since May 2023, consider local scares – the mass shooting in Farmington with an 18-year-old randomly killing three people; a device made to look like a pipe bomb near Durango City Hall in the alley behind Carver Brewing Co.; and, a few weeks ago, white powder – later determined to be baking soda – spread around the Durango Police Department, La Plata County Courthouse and other buildings.

It’s a climate of potential hostilities. We’re all about local control first, so we’re glad the city acted.

As it turns out, a new state law may be coming, too. Introduced this session, Senate Bill 131 prohibits carrying a firearm – both openly and concealed – in “sensitive places” to include government buildings, hospitals, churches and other places of worship, bars, public parks, recreation centers, zoos, and political rallies and demonstrations.

Existing law prohibits openly carrying a firearm within any polling location or central vote count facility, or within 100 feet of a ballot drop box. SB24-131 goes further, outlawing a firearm in any manner at those locations.

The bill does, though, get us thinking about what places are “sensitive.” Of course, it’s a felony in Colorado to possess a deadly weapon on school grounds. And Walmart, Walgreens and City Market’s parent company, Kroger, asked shoppers not to openly carry firearms. Others include Starbucks, Target and Wendy’s.

While Second Amendment rights of Americans are protected, we expect more private businesses will hang signs not allowing weapons – it’s their choice. If customers refuse, at the very least, it’s a trespassing charge.

New requests to enter commercial establishments unarmed would be especially timely after Colorado launched its first ever data dashboard about gun violence and gun use.

With a public health approach, stark figures are gathered in one place at http://tinyurl.com/3funud6h, and it’s quite the conversation starter.

Beyond mass shootings, gun deaths have steadily increased for more than a decade, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The dashboard also has data on extreme risk protection orders, firearm sales, and firearm access and storage.

Since 2014, Colorado has had 60 mass shootings that killed 88 people and injured 239. In 2022 alone, there were 13 mass shootings, with 33 killed and 41 injured.

In 2021, our state recorded 701 suicides and 251 homicides.

These numbers are enough to imagine most any place as sensitive and vulnerable.

We’re fine with Durango prohibiting weapons in city buildings. And we appreciate that the city came to that decision on its own.