Welcome to the New Wild West! Woodland Park Council Shoots Down Law Banning Guns in Bars/Restaurants

Firearms in Local Bars. The Woodland Park City Council has done away with previous prohibitions, outlawing guns and firearms in establishments that serve alcohol. But if you plan on drinking, leave your weapons at the door or in your vehicle. Elected leaders believe the state rules are adequate in protecting the local welfare and cite the importance of protecting Second Amendment gun rights.

Second Amendment Rights Cited; Alcohol and Firearms Still Banned

Trevor Phipps

After much discussion, Woodland Park elected leaders have officially killed a city law banning  guns in places that serve alcohol.

As a result, gun and firearm owners can now enter bars, restaurants and other places that serve alcohol without having to worry about violating a city law, or having to store their weapons in their cars or deal with additional inconveniences.

This decision occurred in a final haring on the law change at last week’s WP council meeting.

However, many of the council members pointed out that the law change is not a green light to allow gun owners to drink with firearms. Since the state law already bans having a gun while intoxicated, the local elected leaders decided that the state law covered any issues involving alcohol and guns.

The main theme of discussion was the fact that under the old law, people could not carry guns into a place that served alcohol whether they were drinking or not. Many deemed the law unnecessary and some believed that it went against the citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

When the subject came up on the agenda, City Attorney Geoff Wilson asked Councilwoman Catherine Nakai to speak about why she brought the law change to the table. She said that she found the law in 2019, when she was researching the code on another issue.

“I approached our previous police chief and asked him about it and he basically informed me that the law had not been enforced in his tenure,” Nakai said. “When we got our new police chief, I called him and spoke with him about it. His idea basically was that if the law exists, he will enforce it. From that I asked him if he had an issue with removing the law and he said he did not.”

She said that she did receive one email from a citizen that was concerned about the law change. But then after she had a meeting with Sheriff Jason Mikesell, about the state law, she was confident that most gun owners in the area were responsible to not carry guns while intoxicated.

The council member said that she also did research the matter further and discovered that the city of Colorado Springs has no ordinance banning guns in bars or restaurants, and that they follow the state statute. In Pueblo, the city has an ordinance similar to what Woodland Park used to have, but those with concealed carry permits can still have weapons inside bars and restaurant if they are not intoxicated.

Councilman Robert Zuluaga said that he had also received an email with concerns, but after talking to the police chief and sheriff he was confident that the city ordinance was not needed. “We do not have a history here at all of having any problems with firearms in bars,” Zuluaga said. “I’m not speaking for the sheriff or police, but basically, they are not bothered by it. No issues have risen for the last 20 years. And it really is a Second Amendment right.”

However, Municipal Judge Elizabeth McClintock spoke up and addressed the council not as a judge, but as a citizen. “The law does not mean intoxicated to the level where you can get a DUI, it is intoxicated to the slightest degree,” McClintock said. “They don’t have to prove a level of intoxication.  It is just if you’re impaired to the slightest degree. It happens all the time that people get charged with that under the state statute.”

She said that the law was intended to keep people from drinking inside a bar while they are carrying a weapon. “One of the things you need to keep in mind (and I’m surprised we haven’t heard from any bar owners) is that they still have significant liability in regards to this,” McClintock explained. “If they have someone come in and tell them that they want another drink and they have a gun on them and their bartender is trained to cut them off, to me that is kind of an issue. I assume that was the reason it was put into law in the first place because they don’t want people in there that could get drunk with a gun.”

She said that she was concerned that some could see this law change as permission to drink in a bar while carrying a gun. She was worried that passing this ordinance change could cause liability issues with bar owners.

But in the end, the council  agreed that the state law is enough of a restriction, and that the city didn’t need to further restrict people from carrying guns in bars. City Clerk Suzanne LeClercq clarified that previously people would be in violation of the city code if they were carrying a gun in a restaurant that served alcohol whether they were drinking or not.

After discussion on the topic, the council agreed to get rid of the law and voted unanimously to do so.