Colorado has a long history of wrangling over gun rights. This legislative session will be no exception.
Lawmakers in Colorado, including one state Senator who’s running for the U.S. Senate, have introduced at least three measures to expand gun rights so far this legislative session.
One of the bills, unsurprisingly, is aimed at rolling back a 2013 package of legislation that limited to 15 the amount of bullets a gun magazine could hold in Colorado. One of the Senate sponsors is Tim Neville of Jefferson County who is running in the crowded GOP primary field for U.S. Senate this year. The bill is pretty simple: It repeals the 2013 law, and “declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.”
Another bill, also sponsored by Neville and others, would extend to the workplace the state’s ‘Make My Day’ law, which allows Coloradans to use deadly force against intruders in their own homes under certain circumstances. This new law would allow the same ability to “owners, managers, and employees of businesses.”
A third measure would scrap the permitting requirements for carrying a concealed weapon in Colorado. Currently, lawful handgun owners must apply for a concealed weapons permit through their county sheriff who has the discretion to issue, deny, or revoke them.
Here’s more on that bill:
A person who carries a concealed handgun under the authority created in the bill has the same carrying rights and is subject to the same limitations that apply to a person who holds a permit to carry a concealed handgun under current law, including the prohibition on the carrying of a concealed handgun on the grounds of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school.
Following a the 2012 gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, states across the nation actually expanded gun rights, “embracing,” as The Associated Press reported, “the National Rifle Association’s axiom that more ‘good guys with guns’ are needed to deter mass shootings.”
Some of that expansion came with bipartisan support from lawmakers in at least one red state during the 2014 election cycle.
In South Carolina, for instance, the Democratic nominee for governor joined with the House Democratic Minority Leader in a Republican-controlled legislature to pass new laws that stripped a mandatory eight-hour permitting requirement for carrying a concealed weapon, and also allowed permit holders to carry their weapons into bars and restaurants, as long as they didn’t drink and there was no sign prohibiting them from packing. One lawmaker said the law passed so quickly because of the “national conversation” about firearms and a push from Washington, D.C. to restrict gun rights.
Here in Colorado, the opposite happened after Sandy Hook. Lawmakers in a legislature controlled by Democrats passed laws that banned high-capacity gun magazines, and required universal background checks for all gun sales and transfers inside the state’s borders, which went further than federal law.
That year, a majority of county sheriffs in Colorado joined with gun shop owners and shooting range operators to sue Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, claiming the new laws were unconstitutional. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in June. Some sheriffs said they wouldn’t enforce the new laws.
In Colorado, “Universal background checks stopped some 6,590 people in Colorado from buying guns last year and also resulted in the arrests of 227 fugitives,” reported KOAA News5 in Colorado Springs. The most common reason a potential gun buyer was denied a firearm in November, the station reported, was for a conviction, assault, or arrest.
The bill dealing with concealed weapons permits, sometimes called Constitutional Carry, wouldn’t shut down all the concealed handgun permitting programs in each of Colorado’s 64 counties. If passed, the bill would allow lawful gun owners here to carry concealed firearms without a permit within the state, but they’d still need a permit from Colorado if they wanted to carry a firearm in more than 30 other states outside Colorado’s borders.
Asked where the County Sheriff’s of Colorado membership organization stood on the bill, the group’s director, retired sheriff Chris Johnson, was pretty clear.
“Support. Support. Support. Support. Support. Support,” he said. “The sheriffs support constitutional carry. Period.”
Johnson says his organization supports all three bills introduced so far this year, though he doesn’t think they’re likely to actually go anywhere. Once they hit the Democratically controlled House, he predicts, they’ll likely be killed.
This year Republicans control the Senate, and Democrats control the House.
The gun bills have been assigned to the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committees in each chamber where they’ll eventually get a hearing. In the House, Dean Toda, a spokesman for the caucus that controls power there, didn’t expect efforts to roll back the state’s gun laws to prevail.
“Every year they fail,” he said. “I don’t see that this year will be any different.”
Gun violence and gun safety issues have been front and center in the Democratic race for president, featuring heavily in the last debate between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, which was hosted in Charleston, South Carolina. Earlier, in October, O’Malley had travelled to Boulder where he crashed the GOP presidential debate held there so he could talk about gun violence.
Neville declined through a spokesman to comment for this story.
Photo credit: Ken via Flickr