Library gun ban would be costly
To become truly “weapons-free” facilities, Garfield County libraries would have to install metal detectors and hire security guards, at considerable cost and at the expense of other services, according to the director of the six-branch library district.
“Installing extensive security systems, like you see at the (Garfield County) courthouse, would be an unanticipated expense for which we have no budget,” said Amelia Shelley, executive director for the Garfield County Public Library District.
“The funds for install a security system and hiring personnel would have to come from somewhere else in the budget, likely leading to a reduction in services,” she said.
The library district board essentially has three options before it when it meets in Carbondale this evening to consider a policy change dealing with guns on library premises:
• Allow for both open and concealed carry, as permitted by state law and the library district’s current policy.
• Allow concealed carry as provided by state law, but ban open carry, which is the policy revision on the table for tonight’s meeting.
• Ban all weapons in libraries, necessitating the installation of metal detectors and hiring armed security guards to be at each library entrance.
Shelley said the board did discuss the all-out ban alternative before agreeing to draft the more middle-road policy revision that’s now under consideration.
Currently, the district’s policy says that weapons are not allowed in library buildings, “except as expressly permitted by state law.”
In Colorado, that extends to private citizens who are licensed to carry a concealed firearm and those who choose to carry a firearm openly, which is allowed without a permit.
Public libraries can tailor their own policies to a certain extent, though gun rights and state laws regarding concealed-carry in particular have become an issue for libraries not only in Colorado but across the country, Shelley said.
The American Library Association addressed the issue in a January 2014 article, in which it advised public library districts to be careful that they comply with laws in their state.
“Open carry is the one thing where state law gives us some leeway, which is why we’re having this discussion,” Shelley said. “We really do want to hear from the community on this, and I think we will.”
Based on some estimates she obtained from the state library association, it could cost in the neighborhood of $250,000 to put in library security systems if a weapons ban were enacted. That doesn’t even include the cost to hire security guards, Shelley said.
Shelley said she is not aware of any public library system in Colorado that has metal detectors.
“I can tell you we don’t have the money to do it,” she said. “I also think the tone that is set when entering a building with metal detectors and guards also would put off many people and would reduce library use.”
Concealed-carry permits, which in Colorado requires special training in the use of firearms for self-defense and criminal background checks before a permit can be issued by the local sheriff’s office, is also more discreet and usually not even noticeable, Shelley said.
The Garfield County Library board meets at 6 p.m. today at the Carbondale Branch Library, where it is scheduled to consider the policy.
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