The Colorado Senate will debate in full a suite of seven gun-control measures today, and when the conversation is over, should vote to approve most of them. With notable exceptions, the bills are reasoned, balanced attempts to reduce gun violence in Colorado without unduly hampering residents’ Second Amendment rights or their ability to protect themselves.
Four of the bills were passed in the House last month and represent the core of the state’s answer to calls for gun control in the wake of mass shootings in 2012, most notably in Aurora in July and in Newtown, Conn., in December. These measures – House Bills 1224, 1226, 1228 and 1229 – are well-vetted and deserve prompt passage, as does Senate Bill 195, which bans online training for those seeking permits to carry concealed guns. Bills restricting gun possession for those convicted of domestic violence – Senate Bill 197 – and assessing liability for violent crimes to gun sellers and manufacturers – Senate Bill 196 – however, may be nudging the scales of rights and restrictions out of balance. The measures that respect that tension, however, deserve passage. They are:
HB 1224: Perhaps the most contentious of the gun legislation, this measure would limit magazine capacity to 15 rounds. That number is more than enough to allow individuals to fully exercise their Second Amendment rights, while potentially saving lives in episodes of mass violence by limiting the number of rounds a shooter can fire in rapid succession. The measure targets the most gruesome of situations and attempts to proactively mitigate the destruction wrought.
HB 1226: This bill makes consistent state prohibitions on concealed weapons, adding college campuses to the list that already includes K-12 schools and public buildings such as courthouses and the State Capitol. It makes sense to apply the same rule across all Colorado public colleges and universities, giving certainty to students, faculty and administrators across the state.
HB 1228: Those seeking to purchase a gun would be required to pay for their pre-sale background check – approximately a $10 fee. The checks are currently paid out of the state’s general fund. This bill makes fiscal sense as well as meets a common-sense standard for user fees: Those seeking the service should pay for it.
HB 1229: Under this measure, virtually all gun sales and transfers – including those between private parties – would first require a background check for the purchaser or transferee. This broadens the sphere of screens designed to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not possess them. It will not stop all such occurrences, of course, but it takes a practical step in the right direction.
SB 195: Those seeking concealed-carry permits can now receive their training through an online program. This measure would require that training be conducted in person, which is not at all unreasonable for someone learning to properly handle so powerful a weapon as a handgun. Doing so adds a critical piece of interaction and engagement appropriate for those carrying weapons into public places.
These five measures are small but important steps toward reducing the instances and impacts of gun violence in Colorado. They are appropriate, have the potential to be effective and strike an acceptable balance between public safety and individual rights. They are also precedent-setting bills that will inform the gun control debate nationwide. The Senate should pass House Bills 1224, 1226, 1228, 1229 and Senate Bill 195. Gov. John Hickenlooper should sign them into law.