© 2024 Aspen Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Colorado lawmakers pass bill to ban open carrying of guns at polling places

Colorado residents would be banned from openly carrying firearms within 100 feet of polling places if Gov. Jared Polis signs the Vote Without Fear Act.
Colorado residents would be banned from openly carrying firearms within 100 feet of polling places if Gov. Jared Polis signs the Vote Without Fear Act.

When a man with a gun on his hip approached the drive-thru voting station in Salida last November, Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell said many people nearby were concerned.

“You can just feel the tension from the election workers, from my staff, from the other voters, and I just don’t think that’s right,” Mitchell said last month as she recalled the incident.

These reports of armed voters around the state have motivated Democratic lawmakers to pass the Vote Without Fear Act. It will ban people from openly carrying firearms within 100 feet of a ballot drop-off location or polling center.

“Voters deserve the basic American right to cast a ballot without a man looking over them with a gun,” Sen. Sonja Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, said before she voted for the legislation Monday morning.

Supporters of the new law are also citing a 2020 incident where police in Littleton responded to a report of an armed man filming voters at a ballot drop box.

At least 10 other states have banned the open carrying of firearms at polling places.

People who break Colorado’s new law will face penalties ranging from a $1,000 fine to a year in jail.

Republicans oppose it, with some blasting it as an unnecessary, “feel-good bill.”

“So we’re taking values, perspective of the world from the metro Denver area, maybe the Boulder area, and applying them statewide,” Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said. “Why? I don’t know. It’s a very small population of voters who actually go to polling places.”

The bill is now heading to Gov. Jared Polis. It includes exemptions for police officers and residents with concealed carry permits.

Copyright 2022 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.