More state computer woes, this time with data for handguns

A day after State Auditor Sally Symanski revealed the state’s computers aren’t as secure as they should be, her office told lawmakers Tuesday that Colorado’s concealed-handgun-permit database isn’t all that it could be.

An audit of the database maintained by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said it is secure from outside probing, but unlike other state computers, it is riddled with incomplete and inaccurate data.

As a result, the state’s law enforcement agencies, which rely on the database to determine whether someone has or should get a concealed weapon, end up with poor information,  the audit says.

“We found the information in the database is not reliable for law enforcement to use in determining the validity of a permit, which is the stated purpose of the database in statute,” the audit says. “Specifically, of the 51,000 records in the database, 32,000 (63 percent) contained inaccurate or inconsistent information. Also, the database does not contain records for about 45 percent of permits issued in the state.”

The database has always been a controversial topic for some sheriffs, permit holders and lawmakers, many of whom believe the state should not track information on who’s carrying a weapon. As a result, some sheriffs refuse to enter any information into it.

Forty-four of the state’s 64 sheriffs’ departments don’t use it, including sheriffs in two Western Slope counties, Routt and San Miguel.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said the database is an important tool in determining not only whether his department should grant a concealed weapon permit, but also for letting his deputies to know whether a suspect has one when they’re responding to an emergency.

“It is the only way that we will get notified if somebody’s done something wrong with their permit,” Hilkey said. “My personal opinion has always been that one of the roles the sheriffs play is to keep some reasonable sense of policing of those people who are behaving badly who have the permits, so it doesn’t ruin the reputation of everybody who has a permit.”

Despite its general usefulness to sheriffs such as Hilkey, the audit revealed that about 22 percent of the information in the database contained inaccurate expiration dates, about 4 percent of the records appear twice, and about 5 percent of them show valid permits that actually aren’t.

As a result, the audit recommends several fixes to the system, but didn’t recommend that its biggest hole — that only two-thirds of sheriffs enter data into it — should be addressed.

The 2003 law that created the database is due to expire in July, and the audit is expected to be used to determine whether its use should be continued.

Hilkey said its use should continue, but he stopped short of saying all sheriffs should be made to use it.


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