Frequent visitors to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science may have noticed something different about the facility's entrance area this holiday season. Since the beginning of December, the museum no longer has any signs banning handguns posted on its premises.
That's because the museum's Board of Trustees has decided to allow Colorado concealed-carry permit holders to bring firearms into the museum. The move is a dramatic policy change from the museum's prior position, in which only police officers and deputy sheriffs within their jurisdiction were allowed to carry guns inside the museum. The old policy, which has now been taken down from the DMNS website, read:
“Persons possessing concealed weapons permits that do not fall into one of the above named categories are specifically denied permission to bring weapons into the Museum.”
Museum spokeswoman Maura O'Neal told Westword that the organization began seriously considering lifting its concealed weapons ban following the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. The December 2 San Bernardino, California, shootings reinforced the position. "These things occur in waves," said O'Neal of the attacks, adding that DMNS's concern for keeping visitors safe this holiday season was a deciding factor. DMNS consulted with the Denver Police Department before changing the policy.
The museum didn't make a public announcement about the change, but has received positive feedback from concealed-carry permit holders who've learned of the change, O'Neal adds.
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Concealed-carried firearms remain a controversial issue across the country, and opinions are largely split along political lines. According to an October Gallup poll, 56 percent of Americans believe that more concealed-carried weapons would make the United States a safer place, but that only includes 31 percent of respondents that identified as Democrats.
In Colorado, obtaining a concealed-carry permit requires individuals over 21 to pass a background check and a training course, as well as pay permit fees every five years. There are at least 139,560 such permit holders in Colorado, according to a 2012 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.
Under state law, permit holders can carry in all areas of Colorado except K-12 schools, certain federal buildings, public spaces that have both security guards and permanent electronic screening equipment, and private properties where the owner has expressly banned concealed-carry.
Several other large public venues in Denver already allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry guns inside, including the Denver Zoo and the Denver Art Museum. The Denver Botanic Gardens doesn't have a policy on the issue.