Shortly after adjourning a meeting in a committee room at the Denver Capitol Building, Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer found a black canvas bag under the table where the lawmakers had been sitting. When he opened it to look inside he found a loaded revolver. The gun, it turned out, belonged to Republican Rep. Jared Wright from Fruita, Colo.
“I just immediately notified the Sergeant at Arms and soon we realized it was Jared’s bag,” Singer told the Denver Post.
Wright, in his first term, told the Post he often carries the gun at the Capitol. State law prohibits carrying a gun in the building “without legal authority.” Wright maintains he has a right to do so as a peace officer. He served in the Fruita Police Department from 2007 to 2011.
“I feel it’s my duty to be a first responder wherever I am at,” said Wright. “That’s why I carry it.”
The bag was returned, with the gun, to Wright’s office where he got it back.
Gun control has been a contentious topic in Colorado in recent years. The state has experienced some of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history, including the 2012 incident in which a lone shooter opened fire in a crowded movie theater, killing 12 people. In response, the state has passed a number of controversial gun laws. One law requires background checks to be performed prior to any private gun sale. Another law limits gun magazine capacity to 15 rounds.
Nevertheless, the meeting the two lawmakers had just left, prior to the gun being found, was to discuss a bill that would ease restrictions on carrying concealed weapons. That bill is largely a bipartisan effort.
"It's unfortunate that this turned into a distraction, but it's a real lesson on the responsibility a person takes on when they own a firearm," Singer told Reuters in a phone interview.
Lawmakers carrying guns at the Capitol in Denver is not unusual. It seems to be a bit of an open secret, according to a story by the Durango Herald last year.
“Since I started here, I think I’ve always known that members had guns on the floor,” Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) said in that story.
The days of being one of those gun-toting lawmakers are over for Wright. After being contacted by Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office and speaking with Colorado State Patrol, he has agreed to stop carrying his gun in the building.