House Democrats argued for over an hour against a bill that would allow Coloradans who can legally carry a handgun to also conceal that weapon.
While the bill passed on second reading with demonstrations of how a weapon is concealed, Democrats predicted a more dangerous world if the bill were to become law.
“What this bill is about is where people kind of lose it,” Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, said. “…. Ask yourself if you want to join Arizona, which has a law like this on the books. Do we want to be in the same situation that Arizona was in when that young man shot Congresswoman Giffords?”
The bill, if signed into law, would allow anyone who is able to pass a Colorado Bureau of Investigation background check when purchasing a handgun to conceal a handgun on their person. The bill would allow individuals to carry a concealed gun in most areas of Colorado except for public K-12 schools and restricted areas where detection devices are in place.
“Simple bill that does not change who can carry a gun, but simply changes if I have a coat on over a gun that I do not have to have a special permit (that I wouldn’t need) if my jacket is off,” Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said on the floor of the House as he took on and off his jacket.
Democrats argued that the bill would make Colorado less safe by allowing concealed handguns to be carried in private schools, churches, and numerous other locations. They further argued that police would have less ability to know who was and who was not carrying a weapon.
Levy said that 374 people who applied for permits in the state were denied for various reasons including restraining orders, arrest warrants, mental health problems and substance abuse problems.
“We will not be promoting public safety if our police chiefs who are very strongly opposed to this bill do not have any way of knowing who is armed and who is not,” Levy said. “we will all be less safe because of [the bill]…. This is a very very dangerous bill.”
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said that the database that informs officers of who is carrying a weapon is full of holes and is little use for police officers making stops. He said that his own sheriff in Douglas county does not enter the information into the database.
“This bill doesn’t affect the where question at all,” Holbert said. He later said, “The fundamental question is do you trust law abiding citizens to act within the law. I don’t carry concealed right now because I don’t carry a permit. I don’t want to ask permission of the government to carry a gun with my coat over it rather than open.”
Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Englewood, who voted for the bill in committee, said he had changed his mind after constituent phone calls and rethinking of his stance. He said that he realized that when the newspaper headlines read “No permit required” the citizens of Colorado were unlikely to check the statute books to ensure that they knew where the could carry guns and where they could not. “Will the citizens of Colorado say to themselves, ‘Ah, I was prevented from getting a permit before, but now I am still prevented from getting a permit because I am a drunk, becasue I am a felon… .’ We know that won’t happen,” Kagan said.
The bill passed on a voice vote and will now go to 3rd reading.