Colorado Has 'Universal Background Checks,' So Why Is Crime Rising?

Colorado Has 'Universal Background Checks,' So Why Is Crime Rising?

Back in 2013, then-governor John Hickenlooper signed several gun control bills into law, including a ban on magazines over 15-rounds, and a “universal background check” requirement. Six years later, few people have been charged with possessing banned magazines, and background checks haven’t increased either.


One thing that has happened is that crime has gone up across the state, and it’s been a particularly steep increase in the Denver area, and local media are reporting that more children and teens have been shot and killed since January 1, 2018 than in all of 2016, 2016, and 2017 combined.

Prosecutors said 107 teens were charged with gun possession in 2018, compared with 50 in 2015. This year is on pace to equal or surpass last year.

Law enforcement officers, community members and health officials point to a variety of possible reasons for the increase in gun violence against young people. They include changing gang structures, easy access to firearms, violent video games, socioeconomic inequality, hopelessness and an online culture that glorifies gun possession.

Wait, wait, wait. “Easy access to firearms”? How’s that again? Colorado has “universal background check” laws in place, which we’ve been told means that criminals and those who aren’t supposed to have firearms don’t have easy access to guns. Gun control advocates in Colorado claimed back in 2013 that these measures would make the state a safer place:

“I am happy the governor is signing common-sense legislation that reduces gun violence in our communities by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic violence offenders and the seriously mentally ill,” said Democratic Rep. Rhonda Fields.


John Hickenlooper himself said the gun control bills he signed would make Colorado safer in the long run.

“We as a community tried to process the shooting that took place last July in a dark movie theatre. We spent a great deal of time, thinking, talking to people, and trying to look at what could we as a state do to address some of these issues,” Hickenlooper told reporters after signing the bills in his office. “We have signed today several bills that materially will make our state safer in the long-run and allow us to begin to address some of these issues head-on.”

Five years is a pretty long run and crime in Colorado’s still going in the wrong direction, because gun control advocates got their wish. They managed to put several gun control bills on the books with the promise that they would lead to safer societies, instead of focusing on the relative handful of people who are actually driving the violence. The result? An eight percent increase in violent crime in Denver from 2017 to 2018, and a ten percent rise in the homicide rate.

Violent crimes in Denver took a disturbing leap from 2017 to 2018, when 457 more offenses took place. The rise in murders from 58 in 2017 to 65 in 2018 is especially troubling — and so, too, is the increase in aggravated assaults. The 2018 aggravated-assault figure in Denver, 3,314, is 509 more than the previous year’s and actually exceeds the total difference between 2017 and 2018 by itself.


Again, this wasn’t supposed to happen according to gun control advocates. Colorado was going to be safer place with these gun control laws on the books. Instead, in 2018 the state had its highest violent crime rate since 2006 and its highest homicide rate since 2004, and I don’t believe a single legislator who voted for these bills in the name of public safety has been asked why it didn’t work. I know John Hickenlooper’s never brought up the rise in crime, though he’s happy to talk about how he stood up to the NRA and signed the gun control bills. It’s almost like turning the bills into law was more important to the politicians than whether or not the laws actually work. Gun control activists got their victory, but the good people in Denver’s bad neighborhoods are still waiting on the safety they were promised.


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