DENVER – A House panel voted Thursday to allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit.
House Bill 1205, by Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, mimics laws in Arizona and Alaska that allow people who can legally possess guns to carry them concealed, whether or not they have a special permit.
Currently, county sheriffs issue permits to carry concealed weapons. The application includes a $152.50 fee and a background check.
“I would submit that it’s something akin to a poll tax,” Holbert said.
The House Judiciary Committee passed Holbert’s bill 8-3 Thursday afternoon. Two Democrats – Daniel Kagan of Denver and Pete Lee of Colorado Springs – joined the panel’s six Republicans in supporting it.
The bill now goes to the full House for further debate.
Holbert hinted at Thursday’s hearing that some legislators have concealed weapons and routinely carry them to work.
“I think those of us in this room and (who) work in the Capitol may be surrounded by many concealed weapons on any given day, and we’re just not aware of it. Personally, I find it somewhat comforting to be in a room where I know people are carrying concealed, because they happen to be friends,” Holbert said.
Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, said she was “vigorous and vociferous” in her opposition to Holbert’s bill.
“I think it’s a dangerous situation if people are walking around with concealed weapons and nobody knows who they are,” Levy said. “I think it’s a reasonable thing to do in a civilized society for people to have a permit.”
Police departments oppose the bill, said Annmarie Jensen, a lobbyist for the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
Nationwide, people with concealed-weapon permits have killed nine police officers and 279 citizens since May 2007, Jensen said.
The current state law does not allow concealed-weapons permits for people who have felony records, have a restraining order against them or have a criminal record linked to alcohol or drug abuse.
In addition, the current law gives county sheriffs discretion to not issue a permit under what Jensen called the “naked man theory.” A person might meet all the legal requirements to get a permit, but if the county sheriff has a report that he was seen screaming and running naked down the street in the middle of the night, the sheriff could decide the person should not have a concealed weapon.
“This (bill) does not allow for that kind of discretion. And there will be people who have not done anything that legally disqualifies them from carrying a weapon who really are a danger to themselves and others,” Jensen said.
Holbert said it’s a “myth” that the current concealed-carry law protects police officers, because people already have the right to carry hidden weapons in their cars.
In addition, the state’s concealed-weapon database has been proved to be faulty, Holbert said.
Gun possession is permitted under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the right extends to people who carry their weapons openly in public.
Holbert said it makes no sense that he can carry a gun openly but would break the law by putting on his coat.
“Putting on the jacket is where we have to pay $152 and pass a background check,” Holbert said.
Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, was one of the three lawmakers to vote against the bill Thursday. She wasn’t persuaded by Holbert’s argument.
“It’s much more than wearing a coat, it’s concealing. And to me, concealing is the same thing as hiding,” Ryden said.
A debate of the full House has not been scheduled, but it could happen as soon as today.