Saturday, February 16, 2013

COMMENTARY: Legislators should obey capitol gun ban

The news that some legislators are carrying concealed weapons inside the state capitol is deeply disappointing to every citizen of Colorado who believes that the law must apply equally to all.

This state's concealed carry law is very clear on the point: guns are not permitted in the capitol building. Here is the text of C.R.S. 18-12-105(1):

(1) A person commits a class 2 misdemeanor if such person knowingly and unlawfully:. . .
(c) Without legal authority, carries, brings, or has in such person's possession a firearm or any explosive, incendiary, or other dangerous device on the property of or within any building in which the chambers, galleries, or offices of the general assembly, or either house thereof, are located, or in which a legislative hearing or meeting is being or is to be conducted, or in which the official office of any member, officer, or employee of the general assembly is located.

There is no exception in the language of this law for state legislators. There is no statutory language that authorizes the state police, which guard the entrances to the building, to overlook the carrying of guns into the capitol by anyone, even legislators. There has been no regulation by any state agency, including the state Department of Public Safety, that purports to exempt legislators from the statute's reach. No court of this state has declared that the statute cannot constitutionally be applied to legislators while they are in the capitol building.

It is true that the state police have not set up metal detectors, nor posted guards, at the doors through which legislators may enter by means of an access code or digital identification card.

This, however, is no excuse for legislators to break the law. After all, if legislators believe that the law is only to be honored when an enforcer of it is nearby to make sure that it is, the message they are sending is that compliance with the law is at the whim of the individual.

It is regrettable that there are public servants - people who hold a position of high public trust - who apparently have concluded that they are not bound by the laws they write. It is to be hoped that those who have the authority to enforce the law will act in a way that shows their understanding of one of the most fundamental principles of a democratic republic. As Aristotle wrote, centuries ago, "the only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law." That truism certainly extends, in the state of Colorado, to state senators and state representatives.

Members of the Colorado General Assembly should leave their guns at home. They have no place in the state capitol.

As for those who have arrogantly disregarded their sacred obligations under the law of the state they were elected to serve, attorney general John Suthers or Denver district attorney Mitch Morrissey should act to remind such scofflaws that they are not above that law.