Gun control

The Colorado House of Representatives passed the last two of several Democratic-sponsored gun bills Monday to little excitement or fanfare. In part that is because earlier bills touched on more dramatic hot-button issues, but also because the two bills passed Monday are perfectly reasonable, and with that had broad public – if not always partisan – support.

Senate Bill 195 requires those applying for a concealed weapons permit to take at least some of the required gun-safety instruction in person. Applicants can now take the entire course online.

That is only common sense. There is far more to gun safety than simply knowing how to operate the safety or check to see if the weapon is loaded. Particularly in the context of a concealed-carry permit, the gun owner should also have some knowledge as to when and how the law permits deadly force to be used, when and how a weapon may be legally and effectively brandished, the consequences of erring and how best to handle a firearm under what has to be extreme pressure. A concealed-carry permit presumes that it is needed for more than target shooting.

To therefore mandate some real-life training from a qualified instructor seems only sensible, from society’s point of view and from that of the applicant. If people are going to go to the trouble of buying a gun and getting the permit to carry it in a concealed manner, it is in everyone’s best interest for them to learn to use it correctly.

Even so, it is surprising that when gun issues are so politically polarizing, SB 195 passed the House with three Republican votes. When it passed the Senate, it got two Republican votes, including that of state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango. Good for them.

A companion bill, SB 196, did not fare that well, although it passed the House nonetheless. It requires people with domestic-violence convictions or restraining orders to relinquish their guns. Such people already are barred by federal law from having firearms, but SB 196 tells judges to require offenders to give up their guns.

Critics complained that this would allow disgruntled partners or spouses to use the law to make false accusations about domestic violence to get back at each other through their guns. But restraining orders are not simply complaints. They are court orders that must be issued by a judge in response to some cause. And domestic-violence convictions are just that – court verdicts. Neither come at anyone’s whim.

Nor should the role of firearms in domestic violence be minimized. Data collected by the American Bar Association indicate that the “access to firearms yields a more than five-fold increase in risk of intimate partner homicide when considering other factors of abuse.”

And a 2002 study cited by the ABA said, “Of females killed with a firearm, almost two-thirds were killed by their intimate partners. ... almost three times higher than the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined.”

Those facts are widely understood. The threat to liberty in domestic violence cases is not that of depriving gun owners’ of their Second Amendment rights, which, after all, easily can be restored, but of allowing violent abusers to deprive others of their lives.

The House did well to pass these bills. The concealed-weapons bill now goes back to the Senate for approval of minor House-enacted changes. After that, we look forward to Gov. John Hickenlooper signing both.

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