Colorado Democrats Water Down 'Sensitive Places' Bill, but There's Still a Big Problem

Jay Jenner/Austin American-Statesmanvia AP

Colorado Democrats have sent a "sensitive places" bill to the floor of the state Senate, but not without making some major revisions. During a contentious hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers stripped out many of the proposed "gun-free zones" that were originally included in SB 24-131; parks, playgrounds, community centers, public assemblies, hospitals and medical offices, banks, houses of worship, stadiums, amusement parks, zoos, and restaurants where alcohol is served. 


That's good news, but the legislation, at least in its current form, would still create a "gun-free zone" in places where concealed carry has been allowed for years. 

It was amended to only ban firearms at schools, from preschool to college, as well as polling places, the state legislature and local government buildings, though local governments could opt out. It would allow exceptions for security and law enforcement. 

Sen. Chris Kolker, a Centennial Democrat and sponsor of the measure, said the changes were “part of the legislative process, the give and take, and listening to people’s concerns.” Despite losing many of the original locations proposed in the ban, he said including higher education was his “No. 1 goal” with the bill.

Campus carry has been the law of the land since 2003, though the University of Colorado system didn't comply until the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that higher education facilities were included in the Colorado Concealed Carry Act in 2012. 

The law has posed little issue in the years since. While there have been instances of on-campus violence like the shootings of two people in a dorm at UC-Colorado Springs last month, those incidents have not involved concealed carry holders who had complied with campus carry rules. I'm only aware of one incident in 2012 where a concealed carry holder accidentally discharged her firearm while showing it to a co-worker at an on-campus medical building. 

That incident, which resulted in the gun owner facing criminal charges and being terminated from her employment, is hardly evidence that the status quo is putting students or staff at risk. But Colorado Democrats are still patting themselves on the back for advancing a gun ban that will deprive college students, professors, and administrators from being able to protect themselves on campus. 


“I think we’ve set a pattern that this is what other states can follow,” [Sen. Sonya] Jaquez Lewis said. “…The Supreme Court cases do not say this is an exhaustive list. This is where we needed to go for Colorado and we’re happy that we were able to pass this.”

The bill passed on a 3-2 party-line vote. Sen. Kevin Van Winkle, a Highlands Ranch Republican, said even with the narrowing “it’s still a very bad bill that leaves, especially, kids on college campuses totally defenseless.”

I appreciate Sen. Van Winkle's statement, but let's be clear. We're talking about adults here, not kids. You have to be 21 in order to obtain a concealed carry license in Colorado, so the folks who are going to be harmed here are grown men and women who are already carrying for self-defense off campus, but are now being by told by Democrats they're not trustworthy enough to do the same once they set foot on university property. 

We're talking about the college professor who has to walk through campus on her way to her car after evening classes. The college student who lives in a not-great neighborhood because it's all he can afford after paying for tuition and books. The HVAC technician who has to drive through that same dangerous neighborhood each morning and night on the way to their on-campus job. Those are the folks who will be left totally defenseless if SB 24-131 becomes law, and they won't just be disarmed on campus. For many concealed carry holders who attend class or work in a university setting, the bill would result them being disarmed throughout their day. 


Van Winkle might have misspoke when he talked about "kids" being left defenseless, but he's absolutely right that, despite being watered down, SB 24-131 is still a very bad bill. It won't make campuses any safer. It won't stop criminals from carrying on campus, or using a gun to commit a carjacking or armed robbery. The only thing this bill will do is make it impossible for lawful concealed carry holders to fight back if and when they become the target of violent offenders who use a "gun-free zone" as their hunting ground. 

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