Back in 2013, Democrats in control of Colorado’s legislature rammed through universal background checks and a ban on ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 15-rounds. When he signed the bills, then-Governor John Hickenlooper promised that the new laws would make Colorado safer.
They haven’t. Violent crime is up by more than 25-percent since the new laws were put on the books, but Democrats in the legislature are doubling down on their anti-gun efforts by proclaiming the state is in a crisis and the only hope is to pass even more laws aimed at legal gun owners.
Colorado Democrats are introducing two new gun bills Friday afternoon that they say represent the next steps in what will be a years-long attempt at stemming gun violence here.
Rep. Monica Duran, a Wheat Ridge Democrat who’s sponsoring one of the new bills, said, “Each year, whatever it might be, whatever it might look like, we will be bringing (gun) legislation to the point to where it’s just as common as a health care bill, just as common as an environmental bill, where it’s not some big thing, where it’s standard, normal. We’re going to be dealing with this.”
Before we get to the specific legislation Democrats are pushing this year, let’s examine Rep. Duran’s comments for a second. She claims that every year lawmakers are going to be introducing new gun control bills on a piecemeal basis. If they truly believe there’s a crisis, why not just introduce every gun control bill that you support this legislative session?
Duran’s argument is an explicitly political one. She’s admitting to taking an incrementalist approach (otherwise known as “boiling the frog”) because she and other Democrats know if they were to push their entire anti-gun agenda in one session, they’d not only cause a huge backlash among gun owners in the state, but they’d lose their legislative majorities in the next election. Instead, they’re pushing just two bills this year; a storage law and a “lost or stolen” reporting requirement for legal gun owners.
The first of the new bills would require secure storage of firearms, and would in fact penalize people who do not comply. In homes and businesses, under this bill, gun owners would be required to either store their weapons in safe boxes or place locking devices on them. The bill offers some flexibility in terms of what the storage looks like, as long as it’s secure enough to be accessible only with the use of a key, combination code or biometric data such as fingerprints. Failing to comply with these rules would be a class 2 misdemeanor under the proposed bill.
Additionally, the safe storage bill — sponsored in the House by Duran and Rep. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn — would require gun dealers to provide locking devices to buyers, and proposes to punish noncompliant gun dealers with fines up to $500.
The second bill is also starting in the House and will be sponsored there by Sullivan and Rep. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Boulder County. The bill seeks to require that anyone who becomes aware that a gun they own has been either lost or stolen to report that loss or theft to law enforcement within 48 hours. It, too, would create new criminal punishments for violators: Failure to comply would be treated as a petty offense, punishable by a small fine, in the first event. But second and subsequent offenses would be treated as class 3 misdemeanors.
As the Denver Post reports, Republican lawmakers are uniformly opposed to the new proposals, but given their minority status in both the state House and Senate, there’s not much they can do to stop their passage. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, a survivor of the Columbine attack in 1999, says he’s concerned that the proposed laws would establish a back-door gun registry in the state.
“Now we have an effective gun registration,” he said. “A lot of people don’t want the government knowing that they own firearms.”
Neville voiced concern weeks ago that requiring “safe storage” of guns could mean owners need an extra few seconds to unlock their guns, which, he said, would be significant in the case of a home invasion. The Democratic sponsors wrote in an exception that states anyone who has their gun within reach — for instance, in a nightstand next to where the owner is sleeping — does not need to secure the gun. Neville said that’s not good enough.
“You might have folks that store firearms in a certain room … now they walk into a different room and they’re criminals,” he said, adding that he’s not confident the law is enforceable.
Neither one of these proposals will do anything to address the rising violent crime and suicide rates in Colorado, but they’ll allow anti-gun politicians to claim they did “something.” That may be enough for Democrat lawmakers, but it shouldn’t satisfy or please any resident in the state who are seeking real answers instead of soundbite-sized solutions that do nothing but criminalize the exercise of a constitutionally protected right.