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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