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Gun bill repeal shot down

It aimed to reverse Colorado’s latest background-check laws
State Sen. George Rivera, R-Pueblo, on Monday told the Senate Affairs Committee at the Capitol in Denver last year’s gun restrictions criminalize “commonplace activities like lending a hunting rifle to a friend.” A repeal of expanded background checks on firearms was defeated in the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

DENVER – The first Republican attempt to repeal last year’s gun laws failed Monday.

The hearing was carefully scripted on both sides, and the outcome was never in doubt.

Sen. George Rivera, R-Pueblo, sponsored the bill to repeal two laws passed in 2013, requiring background checks for private gun sales and for buyers to pay for their own background checks.

Rivera ousted Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, in the state’s first-ever recall of a legislator, after Giron was outspoken in her support of 2013’s gun bills.

“My constituents in Pueblo sent to me here to send a message – they don’t like the gun laws that were passed last year,” Rivera said.

Democrats assigned the bill to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, known as the “kill committee,” because it’s a reliable place to dispose of bills the majority doesn’t like. The panel killed Rivera’s bill on a 3-2 vote after a hearing that lasted more than six hours.

Rivera said he did not want to do away with all background checks, just checks on private-party transactions.

“They place unreasonable burden on law-abiding Coloradans, criminalizing commonplace activities like lending a hunting rifle to a friend,” Rivera said.

Democrats, however, pointed out exceptions to last year’s law that allow gun owners to loan their guns to hunting buddies for up to three days at a time.

Ron Sloan, director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said 6,198 private gun sellers did background checks through his agency. Of those, 104 were denied because the seller wasn’t allowed to own a gun. The denials included six people with restraining orders, two arrested or convicted of sexual assault, 16 for assault and one for homicide.

“I think the raw numbers speak for themselves,” Sloan said.

Rivera said that even though background checks might have flagged the buyers, the law does nothing if sellers choose to ignore it and complete the sale anyway.

Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, questioned Rivera.

“We prevented 104 people who either had a restraining order or a felony conviction from having a weapon. You’re saying to me that, that wasn’t worth it?” Aguilar said.

Dozens of people showed up to testify. They included supporters and opponents of repealing the background check laws.

The Legislature set aside its largest hearing room, with a capacity of nearly 200, for the hearing. It filled up, with only two people listened from an overflow room.

The scene was a contrast to last year, when opponents of the gun bills clogged the corridors of the Capitol, while angry drivers circled outside, honking their horns for hours.

Republicans also have introduced bills to repeal a 2013 bill to limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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