Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet today both voted in favor of an amendment to the Pentagon’s budget bill that would have made it legal for gun owners licensed to carry concealed weapons to take them across state lines. But the amendment, authored by South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, failed to pass.
The senators’ offices have yet to release official comments. But for Colorado the controversial amendment had a different shade of meaning than it did for other states. Here it would have translated to infringement on existing gun rights more than to protection against an expansion of gun rights.
In Colorado, there is strong support for wide interpretation of the Second Amendment and lawmakers are loath to pass laws that would restrict the right to bear arms.
Colorado has in place concealed carry-law reciprocity agreements with other states, as many as 27, including Alaska, where the laws governing firearm licensing are minimal. Licensed Coloradans can presently carry their concealed weapons into those other states, regardless of the laws in those states. It is the same for visitors from those states coming to Colorado.
Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has been blogging the issue, stating the case against the Thune Amendment.
Under this proposal, states would be forced to recognize all concealed weapons permits – even if the requirements for out-of-state permit-holders fall well below their own.
Take training requirements, for example. Some states, like Mississippi and Georgia, require no training at all for the carrying of concealed weapons. Texas, by contrast, requires at least 10 hours of range time before the Lone Star State issues a permit. States like Texas would see their standards gutted under Sen. Thune’s plan.
Also, states that currently allow relatively few out-of-state visitors to carry concealed weapons within their borders – such as Oregon, Maine and Nebraska – will be negatively impacted by Sen. Thune’s amendment.
Upon news that the Amendment failed today, Helmke said:
I’m grateful for the leadership in this fight… I am hopeful that our Congress will now start addressing proactive measures to reduce gun violence in this country by doing things like requiring background checks for all gun sales, particularly at gun shows. We make it too easy for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons in America.
**Update**: Sen. Udall’s statement on his vote:
Since 2003, Colorado has had a relatively relaxed reciprocity statute recognizing the conceal-carry permits of 27 other states. Our experience over the last six years does not lead me to conclude that passage of this amendment would raise the risk of unlawful gun smuggling or other criminal acts. It allows Coloradans to travel elsewhere once they have obtained a concealed permit in our state. It does not encourage irresponsible behavior or absolve anyone from criminal prosecution in Colorado if they use a gun in the commission of a crime.
The full record of the vote is available now at the Senate website.