Westminster City Council’s decision to not take up a gun violence awareness proclamation drew criticism from community members and showed the variability in the council’s current polarized state.
“I do believe my colleagues care about this issue, but I can’t presume to know why we couldn’t get there,” said Mayor Anita Seitz at a May 24 council meeting after five people criticized the council during public comments.
Before the May 24 meeting, the local chapter of Moms Demand Action, a gun safety advocacy group, submitted the proclamation for the council to approve and declare at the meeting. The three Democrats on the council, Seitz and Councilors Kathryn Skulley and Jon Voelz, wanted to adopt the proclamation, but the three Republicans, Mayor Pro Tem David DeMott and Councilors Rich Seymour and Lindsey Smith, did not.
After Moms Demand Action reached out, Skulley emailed her fellow council members to ask if they would be interested in taking up the proclamation. Only Seitz and Voelz replied that they wanted to, while the other three didn’t respond, Skulley confirmed in an email. Skulley then followed up with City Manager Don Tripp, who said that the proclamation couldn’t proceed because a majority of the council didn’t support it.
“It makes me disappointed that gun violence is such a polarizing thing,” said Leslie O’Brien, co-lead of the local Moms Demand Action chapter for Broomfield, Westminster and Thornton, during public comments at the May 24 meeting.
“You did not have the courage to come together as a group and speak loud and clear that gun violence is a problem in this country, in this state and in this country,” said Kathy Kelly, another volunteer with the local Moms Demand Action chapter, who alluded to recent mass shootings in the state in recent months in Boulder and Colorado Springs.
Many other Denver metro city councils and the Adams 12 Five Star Schools Board of Education adopted the proclamation, Kelly added. After the Westminster council meeting, Kelly told the Window that Northglenn approved the proclamation.
“By not voting in favor of this, you are refusing to recognize the impact of gun violence on Westminster’s victims and survivors of gun violence,” said Jennifer Bailey, another co-lead of the local Moms Demand Action chapter, during public comments.
After public comments finished, Seitz, Skulley and Voelz all said they were disappointed the proclamation wasn’t on the agenda.
Meanwhile, DeMott said, “I know everybody has different opinions about the causes of gun violence versus what the right actions for gun violence is, but I don’t think any member of council doesn’t take it seriously.”
Smith struck a similar tone, saying, “I like to hear different opinions. Thank you for your thoughts and bringing that important concern forward.”
Only since former Mayor Herb Atchison resigned in early May has the council been split 3-3. The stalemates that accompany that divide began at a May 11 meeting, when the council voted 78 times for the next mayor pro tem. While that meeting suggested the divide was over issues like water rates and the recall, the gun violence proclamation showed that other issues are fair game.
Another measure to approve the development of an affordable housing project on the May 24 agenda also failed due to the 3-3 split.