DENVER – Colorado lawmakers denied extra funding Thursday to help ease a logjam on background checks for firearm purchases, which have increased dramatically in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school as the debate about gun control ramps up.
The Joint Budget Committee voted 4-2 to deny the request for about $455,000 from the Department of Public Safety, meaning people looking to buy firearms will continue to have long waits before making a purchase.
Background checks have typically taken less than an hour, but now they take about a week because more people are interested in buying firearms as congressional and state lawmakers weigh new gun laws.
Three Democrats and one Republican voted to deny the request.
“I don’t believe people who want to buy guns deserve special attention, special funding,” said Boulder Democratic Rep. Claire Levy, a lawmaker on the Joint Budget Committee. She said the funding request, which she called a “sizable amount of money,” would come from the state’s general fund, potentially at the expense of other areas, including schools.
“I don’t believe we should further burden general fund dollars with an expense that should be borne by the gun purchases,” said Levy, who has previously suggested gun buyers should pay a fee for the background checks.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which conducts the background checks, is working to process 10,600 background checks, some of them from people who have been waiting since Jan. 9.
“We respect the policymakers’ decision, and we will move forward as efficiently and effectively as possible with the resources we have,” said Susan Medina, a Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman.
The bureau processed 38,781 background checks in November. In December, the month of the Connecticut shootings, checks increased to 57,878. Since then, the increased demand for the background checks has continued.
Democratic Rep. Crisanta Duran of Denver wanted to grant the request for more funding.
“I think right now we have a surge of gun sales, and we should be able to do the background checks according to law in a timely manner,” she said. She called the money that was requested a “reasonable amount.”