By John Colson
Sopris Sun Correspondent
Anyone feeling insecure about his or her safety while visiting a Garfield County public library can now carry a concealed firearm as they browse the stacks — at least, they can if they have the proper permit.
But they cannot carry a gun openly, following a decision on Feb. 5 by the Garfield County Library District board of directors, which amends the district’s previous policy of banning the possession of weapons in any way while in the library.
While the board might have adopted a policy to ban all firearms within the facilities, that concept was rejected because of the prospective costs associated with having metal detectors and guards on the premises, as required by state law where such bans are in effect.
The issue came up in Garfield County after it created a stir in several communities in eastern Colorado over the past couple of years, including the Clearview Library District in the town of Windsor, where a woman had to leave a library building in 2012 after the concealed pistol she was carrying shifted and became visible to another patron.
The woman left, but her cause was taken up by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Association, for which she worked, which threatened to sue the Clearview district if they did not change their policy to allow the carrying of concealed weapons as permitted under state law.
Garfield County Library District Director Amelia Shelley confirmed the new policy was adopted to conform to state law, which does allow the carrying of concealed weapons in many public places, including libraries.
“The only institutions that are truly weapons-free are schools, under Colorado law,” Shelley said on Wednesday.
Concealed-carry has been legal in Colorado since 2003.
According to one published account of the meeting, which was held at the Carbondale Branch Library, there was more than an hour of discussion and feedback from the public on the matter, and at least one objector to the library district’s policy of prohibiting guns in library buildings reportedly threatened to never allow his children to visit the library again unless the policy were changed.
Those arguing in favor of concealed-carry in libraries have maintained that prohibiting guns in the libraries actually makes them unsafe for the general public, because they offer targets for troublemakers who otherwise would avoid libraries where patrons could carry guns.
The policy was reported to go into effect immediately.
Shelley said library staff have been instructed to inform police if a weapon is seen being carried by a patron in a library, and “then it will be up to the police to talk to the person, to see if they have the correct permit.”
The new policy covers only firearms, Shelley said. The matter of carrying knives in a library will be addressed at a future board meeting, she explained, “But we (library staff) need to do some research on that before we can make a recommendation” to the board of directors.
Shelley said there have been no gun-toting incidents in the county’s libraries since passage of the new policy, but noted that on Feb. 9 someone apparently fired a pellet gun at the Rifle Branch Library building, breaking a window.
The pellet was not found, and no arrests were made, Shelley said, adding, “But the police assume it was kids.”