Another day, another victory for Colo. Dems on gun control bills

Greg Campbell | Contributor

For the second day in a row, a pair of gun control bills — which many Republicans and gun-rights advocates heavily oppose — sailed through Democratic-controlled committees in the Colorado state legislature on their way to becoming law.

All four bills that moved out of committee this week will be heard in a rare day-long session in the state House of Representatives on Friday, and may be voted on as early as Monday.

Wednesday saw the advancement of bills banning concealed-carry permit holders from bringing their guns into buildings on college campuses, and another that would shift the cost of conducting background checks from the state to individual purchasers.

In a repeat of the scene on Tuesday — when the House judicial committee approved bills banning high capacity magazines and requiring universal background checks — the committee room was packed with spectators, most opposing the bills.

Committee chairs have taken to limiting testimony to 90 minutes each for those supporting and opposing the bills. For the bill banning guns on college campuses, the House education committee only had time to get through three of seven pages of people who had signed up to urge a no vote.

Democratic Rep. Claire Levy, who sponsored the bill, said it was about keeping guns out of the hands of college students who can find themselves in unpredictable situations.

“We know statistically that kids in this age group engage in risky behavior,” she said. “They binge-drink, they experiment with drugs. That’s what you do when you go to college. Those who engage in those risky behaviors are more likely to use a gun in an irresponsible way.”

“My point with this bill is that in this environment, with this mix of people and the volatile issues our students are facing, the addition of a weapon, whether legal or not, is a bad idea,” she said.

The issue of guns on campus is not new in Colorado. Before the state supreme court overturned a decision by the CU Board of Regents to ban concealed weapons, some county sheriffs publicly vowed not to enforce it.

Sheriffs again testified that Levy’s bill would prevent students from defending themselves in the event of a shooting.

The bill was forwarded to the appropriations committee after a 7-6 party line vote.

Later in the afternoon, the finance committee advanced a bill by the same margin requiring gun buyers to pay for their own background checks. Currently, the state pays about $1.4 million to run the checks, but if the universal background check bill becomes law, the cost to the state could more than double.

Because of a steep increase in gun purchases after the Sandy Hook shooting, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has been swamped with background check requests, causing the agency to struggle to complete them in the three business days mandated by law. Bill sponsor Rep. Lois Court said a pay-as-you go system would help eliminate that backlog.

Republican committee members likened the proposal to a tax on those who exercise their Second Amendment rights, but Court argues that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such fees do not generally create unconstitutional restrictions.

Other opponents likened the fees to poll taxes.

Supporters, on the other hand, pointed out that people who require a background check for work — such as child-care providers and medical marijuana dispensary owners — must pay for them, and that it’s only fair that gun buyers also pay for theirs.

Court said the fee would likely amount to about $12.

“I believe that if someone can afford the hundreds of dollars it costs to buy a gun, a $12 fee isn’t going to be an imposition,” Court said.

If passed into law, the bill would return money currently spent on background checks to the state’s general fund. Court said she hopes it would be used on mental health issues.

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