Colorado authorities seize weapons at Capitol
October 6, 2009
DENVER, Colorado – State police have seized more than 500 weapons from people entering the state Capitol over the past year and a half, according to a report by the Colorado State Patrol obtained by The Associated Press.
Officers seized 495 knives, 22 box cutters, five handguns, a stun gun, a sword and brass knuckles, among other items, between January 2008 and September, the report said. At the state Supreme Court building, officers confiscated 124 knives, three handguns, three ammunition clips and a blowtorch.
No specific lawmakers were targeted and only one person was charged – for carrying illegal brass knuckles, said Col. James Wolfinbarger, chief of the Colorado State Patrol in charge of security at the Capitol. He said most of the weapons were legal and returned to their owners when they left the buildings.
Wolfinbarger said everyone carrying a weapon surrendered them to authorities voluntarily.
The Legislature’s Transportation Review Committee asked for the report during a hearing on safety issues last month. Lawmakers grappling with a $240 million budget deficit are debating whether to save $850,000 a year by eliminating Capitol security guards and metal detectors at two main entrances.
“All things are on the table when we look at our current budget environment,” said Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, who voted for a budget amendment earlier this year to scale back security.
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That amendment passed in the Senate but died in the House amid strong debate over a shooting in 2007 inside the Capitol.
Security was increased after an armed man was shot and killed by a state trooper outside Gov. Bill Ritter’s office. Authorities said Aaron Snyder, 32, was shot after declaring he was “the emperor,” showing a gun and refusing orders to back down.
The state patrol says enhanced security is needed to protect people who work inside the Capitol and visitors. Critics say it’s impossible to protect the entire building from a determined attacker because there are too many unguarded entrances.
Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said the Legislative Council’s Executive Committee will meet in November for a security briefing.
“At the end of the day, this is the people’s building. We need to make sure the state Capitol is open to the public and is safe. It is not just where I work, or where Gov. Ritter works, but it’s where hundreds of tourists and Colorado citizens come each day and we need to make sure it’s safe,” Shaffer said.
“We continue to take the safety and security of elected officials, their staffs and visitors in all state buildings very seriously,” Wolfinbarger said.