Garfield libraries ban open carry, allow concealed guns
CARBONDALE — The Garfield County Library board voted unanimously Thursday night to amend its regulations to ban open carry of firearms, but allow licensed concealed carry on library property.
The decision was essentially the moderate option out of three approaches the library district could have pursued. The board could also have amended its current policy against weapons to read “in accordance with state law,” which would allow both open and concealed carry, or else banned both open and concealed carry and put metal detectors and security in place.
Although standard protocol calls for a maximum of 15 minutes of public comment and no more than three speakers on the same subject, the board allowed more than an hour of feedback from the small crowd at the meeting at the Carbondale Library.
Some attendees spoke in favor of limiting firearms.
“I can’t fathom for what reason someone might feel a need to bring a gun into a library,” Ted Frisbie told the board. “It is a place that is meant for safe growth.”
Others disagreed that a gun ban creates safety.
“To me, if you’re talking about a gun-free zone, it equates to a helpless victim zone,” Perry Sweeney said. “That’s the place that people target because they know that there’s no one there that can fight back.”
Gil Villarreal agreed.
“I will seriously reconsider allowing my children to come here if that is the policy that adopted,” he said.
Rick James, a concealed carry instructor, told the board about the training and responsibility that goes with a concealed carry license, prompting Marilyn Oden to suggest an in-library class on gun safety.
Ultimately, a full ban was deemed nonviable due to the cost of security.
“We cannot even begin to think of affording that,” said board member Bill Lamont.
Lamont also saw reasons to ban open carry beyond the risk of a violent incident.
“The concern is what children see,” he said. “There’s a fear factor, like it or not.”
As the board moved toward its decision, several other concerns surfaced.
Foremost was the question of how library personnel should respond if someone enters the property visibly armed or if a patron notices a concealed weapon.
According to Glenwood Springs branch manager Sue Schnitzer, standard policy is to call the police nonemergency line and ask for an officer to walk through.
“It’s our job to make sure the public in our library can feel safe and comfortable,” she said. Police usually arrive within 10 minutes after a call. In emergencies, it’s been as little as 60 seconds.
“Three of our libraries are next door to police stations,” observed Executive Director Amelia Shelley.
Another bone of contention was the use of the word “weapon” in the current regulation and signage. The board decided to change the language to “firearm,” with rules on knives to be addressed separately.
Enforcement and signage alterations are expected to take effect quickly.
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Rick Holt, chief academic officer for the Roaring Fork School District and a former Carbondale Middle School principal, will be leaving to become superintendent of schools in the Archuleta County School District.