Senate’s gun-rights bills shot down by House Democrats

Just one bill to expand gun rights in Colorado is still standing after a state House committee dispatched three pro-gun bills Wednesday.

That last remaining bill, which is likely destined for the same House “kill” committee — State, Veterans and Military Affairs — would allow any person who is legally allowed to buy a handgun to carry it without a concealed weapons permit. The measure passed the Senate Thursday morning on a party-line 18-17 vote, with Republicans carrying the day.

The straight party-line vote was a marked difference from the other three bills the Senate approved on gun rights, all of which managed to draw modest Democratic support, most consistently from Democratic Sens. Leroy Garcia of Pueblo and Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge.

Still, the three, as expected, survived one chamber only to die in the next. All dead-ended in party-line votes in the Democratic-controlled House State Affairs committee, with six Democrats against and three Republicans in favor. The hearing on Wednesday drew a standing-room only audience to the state Capitol, but the crowds thinned quickly after the first bill died.

The first would have allowed sheriffs to provide handgun training to school employees, who would then be allowed to carry concealed handguns on school grounds.

Rep. Jovan Melton, an Aurora Democrat, questioned whether every sheriff in Colorado could provide that training, pointing out that sheriffs are elected and are required only to be 18 years of age, without any background in law enforcement. Michael McGuire of Denver said that arming school staff would make the school environment more dangerous, as the training would not be adequate to handle the chaos when a school shooting takes place. “But accidents with guns can happen eight hours a day, five days a week,” he said.

The second failed measure would have allowed active-duty military under 21 to obtain a concealed weapons permit. Current state law requires permit-holders to be at least 21 years old or older. Supporters have pointed out that those serving in the military are already allowed to carry weapons as part of their duty, and that those between the ages of 18 and 21 should be allowed to obtain a concealed weapons permit.

But Democratic Rep. Mike Weissman of Aurora pointed out that even the military requires its service members to be 21 years of age to carry concealed weapons.

The last bill was a fifth unsuccessful attempt by Republicans to repeal a 2013 law that limits the size of ammunition magazines. That 2013 law capped the size at 15 rounds. Backers, including Republican Rep. Lori Saine of Firestone, argued that the 2013 bill cost Colorado an ammunition magazine manufacturer. However, The Colorado Independent reported in 2014 that the company had sought incentives from at least two other states to relocate, and had done so at least a year before the 2013 law was passed.

House Republicans also sponsored their own version of the repeal bill, which was killed by the same committee last month.

In the aftermath of the vote, House Democrats and Republicans continued to wage the battle over gun rights and reform with dueling press releases.

From the Republicans: House MInority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock said “Democrats continue to reject even the most common sense pro-gun legislation. Reasonable changes like safety training for teachers who want to protect their students and military carry for 18-year-old soldiers were killed.”

“Democrats should start listening to Coloradans instead of taking marching orders from the likes of Michael Bloomberg and other anti-gun special interests,” Neville added.

From the Democrats: “I’ve heard from parents and teachers and so many constituents in my district—they don’t want this and they don’t feel it would make them any safer,” said Rep. Susan Lontine of Denver. “Teachers should not be asked to take on the role of law enforcement or security guards. Teachers are in schools to teach.”

Melton said the bill “may create an opt-in for school districts, but it wouldn’t be an opt-in for the parents who don’t want their kids to be in a classroom with an armed teacher.”

Photo credit of ammunition magazine TruthAboutGuns