CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4)– When state Rep. Patrick Neville was considering a good location to hold a March 9 town hall meeting with constituents, he didn’t think long before settling on a gun store in Castle Rock.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s a local, small business”, said Neville, a Republican representing Douglas County.
Besides, said Neville, he had held town hall meetings twice before in the same gun shop, DCF Guns.
But some of his constituents, like Carol Johnson, 72, a Castle Rock resident and longtime gun owner, are lashing out at Neville and other Republican lawmakers who decided a gun store was an appropriate location for a public meeting.
“I was in fact nervous in going to the gun shop because I felt it was an inflammatory place to have this meeting,” said Johnson.
She said she has owned firearms for 30 years.
“I think it was bullying insofar as it was a place that for half the constituents of the county was an uncomfortable place and so it eliminated the kind of citizen participation and the kind of questions that you would hope arise.”
Most town hall meetings are typically held in government buildings, libraries, school facilities or churches. But Neville said the gun shop is “very welcoming and accommodating.”
The event was billed as a “Douglas County Legislators Town Hall” featuring four Republican state representatives and one Republican state senator.
Video from the meeting obtained by CBS4 shows Neville and the four other GOP politicians discussing the red flag bill and other conservative issues although they were occasionally drowned out by opponents who Neville called “disruptive and rude.”
The store has an indoor range and gunshots could be heard throughout the meeting.
Amy Ross, 42, a Highlands Ranch Democrat who is aligned with gun control advocacy groups, attended the town hall which she called “disrespectful and inappropriate” due to the location.
“There are people who cannot, who do not feel safe going into a gun shop,” said Ross, ”myself included. There were people who did not attend that because they cannot be around guns and so it was exclusionary, it was inappropriate.”
Neville told CBS4 that constituents like Ross could simply have skipped the gun shop and come to a nearby restaurant afterwards where the politicians congregated.
He called the complaints about the gun store town hall “invalid” and said he had received “good responses from my constituents.”
Asked if he would hold a town hall in another controversial venue like a strip club, Neville said “probably not. I wouldn’t probably want to do that because I don’t necessarily see that would be a good place to bring children.”
He said he has held other town hall meetings at churches, restaurants and golf clubs but would not hesitate to hold his next town hall at the gun shop.
“I don’t see what the concern is,” said Neville.