By the end of the year, Colorado will have conducted more background checks on firearms purchases than ever before, thanks to a new law that went into effect in July mandating them for every gun transfer. But whether that has made the public safer is still hotly debated.
“Dozens of criminals would be walking around with a gun right now if not for the new law,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields, in a news release reported by the Daily Camera. “Our intention was to make our communities safer and make it harder for criminals to get guns. We now have five months of data that prove that the law is working.”
Others consider the law to be effective only at adding barriers to law-abiding gun owners.
“Background checks in and of themselves are not a bad thing,” Colorado State Shooting Association president Tony Fabian told the Camera. “But they have really had no effect on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, because criminals don’t get their guns through legitimate means.”
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation conducted 354,880 background checks through the end of November, compared to 335,940 for all of 2012. December is typically the busiest month for gun sales, the Camera noted, meaning the total will be tens of thousands more than last year.
The new gun laws, which also included limiting the size of ammunition magazines, were the most hotly debated topic of 2013 in Colorado and are poised to take center stage again in 2014. Republicans, who are in the minority in both chambers of the state legislature, are expected to introduce bills to repeal the new laws.
Three Democratic state senators lost their jobs over the bills, two in historical recall elections and one who resigned rather than risk losing a recall election.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, who faces a touch reelection campaign in 2014, has said Democrats won’t repeal the new laws, but that he is open to considering modifications to them.
The Daily Camera reported that about two percent of all would-be purchasers are denied, mostly for assault but also for a hodgepodge “other” category which can include anything from mental health problems to auto theft.
“The bottom line is, background checks work,” Democratic state Rep. Mike Foote, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the paper. “It keeps guns out of the hands of felons and domestic violence offenders.”
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