As the nation focuses fervently, Colorado has become a Petri dish for experimental gun control debate and legislation. The Gun Control Package, as it has been dubbed, recently came up for a vote in the Colorado General Assembly and contained seven bills that target a breadth of gun control issues circulating public discourse.
Republican critics of the package, including senate minority leader Bill Cadman, point to the involvement of special interest, specifically, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, co-founded by New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, supported by thirteen Mayoral coalition members from Colorado, in the creation of the legislature, arguing legislation imported from interest groups does not reflect the will of Coloradans and should not become law.
The political climate of Colorado, having been touched by the gun tragedies that have reignited debate over limitations on gun ownership, appears tailor-made for the kind of legislative activism embodied in the passage of five of seven bills from the Gun Control Package in houses of the Democrat controlled state government.
The bills that have passed are Senate Bill 195 (banning internet gun training classes for conceal carry permits), Senate Bill 197 (requiring persons with protective or restraining orders against them to relinquish all of their firearms), House Bill 1224 (making high capacity ammunition magazines illegal to purchase and manufacture), House Bill 1228 (creating a fee for background checks to purchase a gun), and House Bill 1229 (requiring private citizens to get a background check done through a licensed gun dealer and approval from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) before selling a gun to another private citizen).
Currently, individuals who are applying for a concealed handgun permit must demonstrate competence with a handgun. Prior to SB 195, which passed in the state Senate and currently awaits a vote by the House, this class could be completed in part or completely online.
Under SB 195, “for the purpose of the concealed handgun application process, a “handgun training class” does not include any firearms safety course that allows a person to complete any portion of the course:
Via the internet or an electronic device; or
In any location other than the physical location where the certified instructor offers the course.”
SB 197, passed by the state Senate awaiting a vote from the state House, states that any person who has been subjected to a restraining or protective order by a court in order to prevent domestic violence or has been convicted of a domestic violence charge, will be required by law to relinquish all firearms and ammunition. For individuals served with a restraining or protection order, the person has between 24 and 72 hours to relinquish all guns and ammunition.
The bill asserts, “To satisfy the requirement [relinquishing of firearms and 556 ammo], the person may:
Sell or transfer possession of the firearm or ammunition to a federally licensed firearms dealer;
Arrange for the storage of the firearm or ammunition by a law enforcement agency; or
Sell or transfer the firearm or ammunition to a private party; except that the person shall not transfer a firearm or ammunition to a private party unless the private party has been approved to possess or purchase a firearm pursuant to a background check of the national instant criminal background check system.”
A person who fails to comply with the process of relinquishing their firearm and ammunition as outlined in the bill commits a class 2 misdemeanor.
HB 1224, passed by both the state House and Senate and awaiting the Governor’s approval, prohibits the sale, transfer, or possession of a large capacity ammunition magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds or more than 5 shotgun shells. Individuals may legally possess large capacity magazines if they were owned before the effective date of the bill, September 1, 2013.
“A person who sells, transfers, or possesses a large-capacity magazine in violation of the new provision commits a class 2 misdemeanor.”
Large capacity magazines that are manufactured in Colorado on or after the effective date of the bill must include a serial number and the date recording when the large capacity magazine was assembled.
The bill asserts, “A person who manufactures a large-capacity magazine in Colorado in violation of the new provision commits a class 2 misdemeanor.”
Under HB 1228, awaiting approval from the Governor, the CBI will impose a fee for any individual performing an instant criminal background check in order to purchase or transfer a firearm. The amount of the fee will not exceed the costs incurred in performing the background check.
HB 1229, concerning sales of guns between private citizens, passed by the state House, revised by the Senate and sent back to the House for re-approval, asserts, “Unless a specified exception applies, before any person who is not a licensed gun dealer transfers or attempts to transfer possession of a firearm, he or she shall:
Require that a background check be conducted of the prospective transferee; and
Obtain approval of the transfer from the CBI after a background check has been requested by a licensed gun dealer.”
More specifically all private citizens who wish to sell a firearm to another private citizen must arrange for a licensed gun dealer to conduct a background check on the individual they wish to sell the firearm to. Conversely any person who wishes to purchase a firearm from another private citizen may not accept possession of the gun until the gun seller receives approval from the CBI for the sale of the gun, via the licensed gun dealer.
According to the bill, “A person who violates the new provisions commits a class 1 misdemeanor.”
Two of the bills that fell in the general assembly were HB 1226 (banning conceal and carry on college campuses by individuals who were not faculty or staff) and SB 196 (The Assault Weapon Responsibility Act).
Supporters of the package like State Senate President, John Morse, argue “these bills do not take firearms away from anyone who can legally have one. The political scare tactics have zero truth behind them. These bills are reasonable policies that respect Second Amendment rights, while helping to keep Coloradans safe.”
The Gun Control Package embodies the vision and groundwork for what a progressive gun-state might someday look like; what remains uncertain is how this vision, will translate into human behavior in a world where Americans are torn between a desire for unrestricted access to guns and the abolishment of violence with guns.