Gun bills range from more guns in schools to tougher background checks

7:44 PM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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Republicans have introduced a bill to allow school districts to enable teachers and other employees to carry concealed handguns on campus.

On the other end of the spectrum, Governor John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) called for universal background checks in his State of the State address last week.

That's a reference to the fact that private party gun sales are not subject to mandatory background checks, as sales of firearms in retail stores and gun shows are.

Democrats in the state House of Representatives are already at work on a bill to do what the Governor asked, saying that some 40 percent of all gun sales are currently not subject to background checks.

That's a national estimate from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Concrete data is not available on private gun sales, because the state does not track those transactions.

Tracking gun sales is at the core of the opposition to Gov. Hickenlooper's proposal to run background checks on all gun sales.

"It's unenforceable unless you go to the next step, which is mandatory registration of every firearm in the state of Colorado," said Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray.)

Under federal law, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation does not keep records of the personal identifying information collected to perform background checks.

Without certifying that a person did or did not obtain a background check for a private party sale, the law would essentially work on the honor system.

"Hopefully [the bill] would motivate and inspire people to be law-abiding citizens by making sure that they complete that CBI check before transferring the gun," Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) said.

Democrats have other changes in mind for background checks.

Right now all Colorado taxpayers foot the tab for the CBI to run background checks as a matter of public safety.

A bill that Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver) plans to offer would have gun buyers or sellers to pay a fee to cover the cost as a matter of fairness.

"Teachers, doctors, a lot of different professions require a background check," said Fields. "Those folks have to pay for it themselves, and we don't have that in place for gun owners."

Republicans balk at the idea.

If Democrats are so concerned about the cost of background checks - they say Colorado should stop doing them.

In that event, the federal government would then take over background checks for Colorado.

"Democrats seem to love that idea with regard to Medicaid and school breakfast and everything else," teased Brophy. "If [Democrats] don't take that, what it means is that they just want to charge gun owners."

In fairness, the state program checks more databases than the FBI would, which is why the CBI background check program exists in the first place.

Republicans in the Senate have already introduced their bill to enable school districts to permit guns on campus.

SB9 would allow school boards to adopt policies that enable employees who have concealed carry permits to bring their weapons to school campuses.

Sen. Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley) says designating a school a gun-free zone makes it nothing more than "a target," where a shooter knows he'll have some amount of time to inflict a lot of damage before police arrive.

He argues that allowing districts to authorize school employees to carry weapons would change that equation.

"It would enable a teacher that Second Amendment right that they have to protect themselves," said Renfroe.

With Democrats in control of both houses, SB9 is unlikely to pass out of the Senate.

Democrats worry that having guns in the hands of school employees could lead to more instances of gun violence.

In the case of an active-shooter incident, they also fear armed teachers could be mistaken for the suspect.

"Are the first responders going to know who is the person that's shooting," asked Fields. "I think that's going to create more chaos."

While SB9 faces significant opposition, it remains to be seen how the universal background check bill will be received.

With Democrats in the majority, moderate Democrats will have a big say in what happens with gun control legislation this year in Colorado.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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