Capitol a grand stage for gun grandstanding

When Democrats in committees of the Colorado Senate passed seven bills related to guns Monday, they were mostly engaged in political grandstanding and overheated rhetoric about proposed laws that will have little practical effect in stemming gun violence.

Some of the bills do have a modicum of merit. But most are little more than a way for Democratic lawmakers to tell constituents, “See, we did something about guns.”

The most dubious is Senate Bill 195, sponsored by Sen. President John Morse. It aims to hold owners, sellers and makers of so-called assault weapons liable for any damages caused when the weapons are used to injure or kill. But there are numerous problems with the bill.

For one thing, it requires sellers, distributors and manufacturers of assault weapons “to exercise the highest degree of care and sell only when they have established reasonable grounds to believe the gun won’t be used dangerously or unlawfully,” according to a Morse press release. That’s legally murky langauge, at best. If a buyer passes a required background check, does the seller have “reasonable grounds” to believe the gun won’t be used dangerously or illegally? If so, the bill is pointless. If not, what are “reasonable grounds”?

Furthermore, the legislation appears to be in direct conflict with a 2005 federal law that protects gun manufacturers from civil liability if their legally sold products are used in a crime.

Gun-rights advocates have good reason to argue, as they have, that SB 196 is really a backdoor attempt to ban assault weapons without introducing a bill to do so overtly.

Other measures, such as House Bill 1224, which limits the size of gun magazines to no more than 15 rounds, will be challenged in court as an infringement on Second Amendment rights. But, constitutional questions aside, the measure would have little practical effect since there are already millions of high-capacity magazines in existence.

Passing House Bill 1226, to ban concealed weapons on all college campuses, is state overreach. That decision should be left to the governing boards of each college and university.

Requiring background checks for private gun sales, as House Bill 1229 would require, is reasonable. But no one should expect it to substantially reduce gun sales to criminals. It’s another measure that will be obeyed mainly by those who already own, use and trade guns responsibly.

Mandating that concealed-carry classes be conducted in person, rather than through a 30-minute online video, under Senate Bill 195 is hardly an oppressive requirement.

Even so, we agree with state Sen. Steve King that, rather than rushing through a bunch of new gun laws of dubious constitutionality and practicality, the Legislature should concentrate on improving mental health programs that would have more impact on reducing gun violence.


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