Gun laws

Colorado House poised to approve meaningful suite of gun-control measures

The Colorado House of Representatives has a full docket today as it takes up four gun-control measures for second reading on the House floor. The debate is likely to be long, heartfelt and divisive, but at the end of the day – or perhaps sometime the next – the bills deserve passage.

The suite of measures comprise a pragmatic attempt to temper gun violence by means of expanding the background-check requirement so that all gun buyers – including those purchasing guns from a private party – must first pass a criminal background check administered through a licensed gun dealer. A second bill introduces a fee, to be paid by the gun buyer, for that background check. The checks currently are paid for out of the state’s general fund. A third measure would prohibit concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses in the state, and a final bill would limit magazine capacity to 15 rounds.

Each of these is a sensible partial answer to the pressing question of how to reduce gun violence in the state. None of them is a whole answer, nor is one provided by passing all four. Indeed, a total solution may be impossible.

That is not, however, sufficient reason to jettison the measures. They will each and all do something to address the problem, and will do so without unduly burdening anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

There simply is no self-defense, hunting-related or constitutional basis upon which to argue that access to magazines that hold countless rounds of ammunition is a right bestowed by our founders. In any imaginable scenario, save full-scale combat, 15 rounds are plenty for the task at hand. The Legislature is right to limit just how much destruction one magazine in one weapon can wreak. The measure can save lives.

Requiring would-be gun purchasers to undergo a criminal background check has long been the standard in Colorado, whether from licensed gun dealers or from sellers at gun shows. House Bill 1229 would expand that requirement to include sales between private parties. And why not? Circumventing a requirement to gun ownership is difficult to justify in most cases, and sales between individuals is not an exception. Provisions to allow gifts between family members, the transfer of antique firearms and protections for hunting and shooting-range activities are included in the measure, and they are appropriate. In the vast majority of gun-sale cases, though, a background check is a small procedural check that can forestall tragic consequences.

The cost of taking such a step, too, should be borne by those who seek to purchase guns – not the state. Since 2000, the state’s general fund has paid for background checks. House Bill 1228 would recover a fee for the service. It amounts to a user fee and is the right move.

House Bill 1226 would prohibit concealed weapons on college campuses. That rule makes consistent a stance that bans concealed guns on K-12 campuses, in courthouses, in other federal facilities and in the state Capitol. Inconsistency between college policies has created confusion where none need exist. There is little justification for guns on campuses at any level.

In House Bills 1224, 1226, 1228 and 1229, lawmakers have set a reasoned course for addressing gun ownership and gun violence in Colorado. They deserve approval in the Legislature and the governor’s signature.