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Has state background-check law been working?

Data analysis may need more time to differentiate new law from old one

DENVER – Republicans are criticizing Colorado Bureau of Investigations data tracking the number of background checks done on private gun sales since a new law expanded the number of reviews required.

The GOP failed last month in an effort to repeal the law adding online and private-seller transactions to a list of mandated checks.

During debate on the repeal attempt, CBI Director Ron Sloan said 6,200 checks were done on “private transfers that were covered under HB1229.”

According to CBI data released late Friday, 2,361 of the 6,199 private background checks done in the first six months of the law going into effect were conducted at gun shows. Background checks at gun shows have long been required under state law.

Republican Senate Leader Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs said Monday he was “extremely concerned that such misleading information would be provided as factually based testimony by the senior law-enforcement professional in Colorado.

“It’s alarming that these were presented in such a way to a committee to substantiate the Democrats’ desire to kill this bill,” he said.

CBI spokeswoman Susan Medina defended Sloan’s testimony, saying in an email late Monday that “although certain types of private firearms transfers required background checks before the passage of HB13-1229, those private transfers are now covered under HB13-1229.”

All of the checks Sloan cited are covered under the new law, she stated.

Democratic Sen. Irene Aguilar, who was on the committee rejecting the Republican repeal attempt, said the numbers haven’t undermined her belief in the background check expansion passed last year in the wake of mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut.

She continued, saying “to really know the effect of that law in specific, you’d need to have more details on these numbers and the non-gun show” figures. She also said it also would be helpful to see what the data show once the law has been in effect for a longer period of time.

The bureau released the numbers late Friday in response to requests from The Associated Press and other media. An analysis of the data fails to provide a full accounting of the effect of the law because transactions between private parties at gun shows have long required background checks under Colorado law, and it’s not known whether total gun sales went up or down during the time encompassed by the data. CBI has not made clear what were considered private transactions before the law’s expansion. But lawmakers from both parties have said those earlier checks could be from gun sales in which the seller was out of state.

Federal law requires background checks on gun sales crossing state lines, which go through a licensed dealer in the buyer’s state.

The CBI figures showed little change in the number of background checks for private-firearm transactions before and after a law expanding the checks took effect July 1.

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