Colorado Lawmakers Ready Gun Control Bills For 2020 Session

Back in 2013  Colorado lawmakers approved sweeping changes to the state’s gun laws, implementing a ban on magazines over 15-rounds and requiring background checks on almost all transfers of firearms. Since then, violent crime has steadily climbed in the state, and in 2018 was a full 25% higher than it was before the “commonsense gun safety” laws were put in place. In the meantime, legislators have approved a number of other gun control bills, including a “red flag” law that will take effect early next year.

Now, lawmakers in the state appear ready to double down on the idea that gun control is the answer to stemming the rising tide of violence in the state. The Denver Post reports that with the next legislative session set to begin in a few weeks, some anti-gun lawmakers like Rep. Tom Sullivan are already setting up the prospect of additional gun control laws.

“It should be something that we discuss on a regular basis,” said Sullivan, a Democrat from Aurora who championed the red flag bill, and whose son was murdered in the 2012 movie theater massacre. “You should see one or two of these types of bills being brought forward, year after year after year, so that collectively, after five or six bills, we’ve tightened things up.”

Sullivan knows how some will interpret that statement: as a declaration of war on the Second Amendment. He insists that safe, responsible gun owners have nothing to fear. He and other Democrats said similar things last legislative session, but the red flag bill subjected them to a backlash that included a failed effort to recall Sullivan.

Nevertheless, gun-related legislation will be introduced next session, Sullivan assured The Denver Post in an interview last week.

“I’ve made it clear to my colleagues that I will be standing up for this, and that I’m welcoming their participation as well. Many of them are joining me in starting to put together bill titles, in wanting to be involved.”

Sullivan says he’s looking at introducing storage laws in Colorado, as well as a “lost or stolen” bill requiring gun owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm to police within a small window of time, or else become a criminal themselves. That idea already has the backing of House Majority Leader Alec Garnett.

“It’s a great example of a bill that helps reduce gun violence, is promoting responsible gun ownership and, I would assume, would pick up the vast majority of the public support,” Garnett said. “So that seems pretty common-sense to me.”

There’s virtually no evidence that “lost or stolen” reporting requirements actually reduce violent crime, and there’s little indication that the laws are used regularly when they are in place. This is another “soundbite solution” favored by politicians more interested in doing something than doing something that works. The idea behind the law is that often, straw buyers will claim that the gun they purchased was stolen, rather than acknowledge they handed it over to someone who wasn’t legally allowed to buy one. The reporting requirement may end up giving straw buyers an alibi, however, instead of catching them in a crime.

A far better solution would be to increase the penalty for engaging in a straw purchase. Right now it’s a Class 4 felony in the state, punishable by up to six years in prison. Lawmakers could choose to up the penalty for a straw purchase from a Class 4 felony to a Class 3 felony with a maximum prison term of 12 years behind bars, and a minimum sentence of four years, but instead, it looks like they’ll pursue another ineffective piece of legislation that targets the victims of burglary instead of actual straw buyers.