Lawmakers pick at edges of gun issue

The four gun measures approved Monday by Democrats in the Colorado House don’t appear to be unconstitutional attacks on Coloradans’ Second Amendment rights. But neither are they likely to have any great effect in reducing gun violence.

It’s more important for the Legislature to approve the funding Gov. John Hickenlooper has sought for better tracking and treatment of those with serious mental-health problems.

Regarding guns, the problem is not just that there are already some 300 million privately owned guns in the United States and some 100 million gun owners. The larger issue is that — depending on which estimate one uses — as many as 70 percent of gun-related crimes are committed with stolen guns.

But the bills passed by the House Democrats Monday — if they become law — will be followed exclusively by people who are already responsible gun owners, not criminals or those who are gun accidents waiting to happen.

For instance, House Bill 1229 would require private sellers of guns who make sales to other private parties to arrange for a background check to be conducted on the gun purchaser by a licensed gun dealer before the sale is completed.

Sellers who refuse to conduct background checks could face Class I misdemeanor charges and could be held civilly liable under some circumstances if the person who purchased it later used the gun to commit a crime.

That’s a pretty big hammer that will likely convince most responsible gun owners to abide by the rules, if HB 1229 becomes law. The measure will probably pass constitutional muster, and it might be a bit of a help to law enforcement in tracking some guns used in crimes.

But does anyone believe people like the man accused of wounding four people in a shooting incident in Grand Junction Saturday — while a 2-month-old child was in the home, no less — will pay any attention to a law such as HB 1229? The measure will have a minuscule effect, if any, on reducing gun violence. The County Sheriffs of Colorado oppose this measure, as well as the 15-round limit on gun magazines approved Monday.

The other bills approved Monday — to limit the size of magazines to those that hold no more than 15 cartridges, to require gun customers to pay the cost of their background checks and to prohibit people with concealed-carry permits from carrying their weapons on college campuses — will also have little impact in reducing gun violence.

On the latter issue, it would make more sense to allow the governing boards of each of the state’s colleges and universities to decide for their institutions whether to allow concealed-carrying and, if so, in what parts of the school and with what restrictions. Since it’s been legal to carry concealed weapons on state campuses for several years, most of the institutions already have solid plans in effect for dealing with them.

Far more important for the Legislature is to adopt the package on mental-health related bills that Gov. John Hickenlooper has requested.


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