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Effort to reduce background check wait times fails

Democrats say Republicans are restricting access to firearms
Colorado Senate Republicans on Thursday rejected an effort to reduce wait times on background checks related to concealed-carry permit applications.

DENVER – Colorado Senate Republicans on Thursday shot down an attempt to reduce wait times on background checks related to concealed-carry permits.

Democrats are using the party-line vote to turn the gun debate around on Republicans. The GOP has attacked Democrats for passing gun-control measures in 2013 that they said limited access to firearms and accessories. But Democrats say Republicans now are the ones impeding access.

“What we’re doing here is intentionally creating obstacles to the constitutional right to get access to a gun,” Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, said while addressing his colleagues in the Senate. “As a gun owner, I find that offensive.”

The effort to reduce wait times on concealed-carry background checks came after the Joint Budget Committee deadlocked on a spending authority bill that would have provided funding for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to reduce wait times.

Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, resurrected the issue Thursday by attempting to add an amendment to a Department of Public Safety spending bill. The amendment would have added $369,323 to reduce background check wait times.

The money already is available thanks to a $52.50 fee paid by concealed-carry applicants for the background check. But without the spending authority, the CBI is unable to use the money that is available, which is why Merrifield attempted to pass separate funding.

The current wait time is about 54 days on background checks. The additional money aimed to lower that time to about 20 days. Wait times are expected to increase past 54 days without the funding. Colorado law requires permits to be issued without a background check if the wait time crawls past 90 days.

“Although I don’t necessarily agree with those who believe that concealed-carry weapons make them safer, there are certainly those who do believe that,” said Merrifield, the former state director for Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “In some cases I think there is some degree of urgency to be connected with their application.”

But Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, chairman of the JBC, said some of the blame should be placed on the CBI. He also suggested that Colorado should adopt a different concealed-carry background check law that models one used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which Lambert said would reduce wait times to one day.

“I believe the request at this time is superfluous and unnecessary,” Lambert said.

pmarcus@durangoherald.com

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