Commissioners want more public discussion before considering changes to ordinance on guns in city parks

Last month, a number of citizens came to a City Commission meeting asking that they be allowed to carry concealed weapons in city parks with valid permits.

During the Nov. 7 meeting, many of them returned asking if commissioners had considered their request.

Several of the speakers said they believed that Great Falls parks would be targeted by those wanting to carry out mass shooting events if the city did not allow concealed carry in the parks. They also indicated that they didn’t feel safe in city parks without their weapons.

But, it turns out city code already allows for the carrying of concealed weapons in city parks.

Guns in city parks? Ordinance is unclear, staff seeking commission direction on concealed carry in parks

Sara Sexe, the city attorney reviewed existing ordinances and state statute and determined that the code and exceptions in the code, make it legal for those with valid permits to concealed carry in city parks.

In an October memo to commissioners, Sexe wrote that she believed the ordinance should be cleaned up and asked for guidance on how commissioners wanted to proceed.

Mayor Bob Kelly said that talking about increased guns becomes emotional and that before giving staff any direction, he wanted to have a broader community discussion.

One speaker asked that commissioners make a decision in three weeks, but Kelly said he’s not inclined to do that. Instead, he said he’d rather wait for the new commissioners to be sworn in so they can be a part of the discussion. But he did ask staff to start drafting ideas and options.

Commissioner Fred Burow said he disagreed and wanted to do a clarification within 30 days.

“I understand it’s emotional,” he said. “I may be a lone voice on this.”

Commissioner Bill Bronson agreed that a community conversation is needed.

As a gun owner himself, Bronson said he understands the rights related to gun ownership but said it’s also a privilege and that they have a responsibility to listen to what other people think.

Bronson said some citizens heard about the request to legalize guns in city parks and expressed concern.

Many of the speakers mentioned national statistics related to guns, but Bronson said he wanted to hear more information on a local level and talk to the Great Falls Police Department for their input.