State Democrats should stand firm 
on recent gun-safety legislation

The annual Colorado legislative gun wars were unleashed Monday. Republicans in the Senate and House staked out their position against the modest gun-safety reform bills passed by the Democrats last year.

These laws were passed after the Aurora theater shooting and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. They limit new ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and require universal background checks for gun sales, including private sales of guns by individual and Internet purchases.

Other Democratic bills require in-person training for applicants for concealed-carry permits and empower judges to order the seizure of guns from those accused of domestic violence.

“The majority of Coloradans, Americans, NRA members and people from all political parties support the use of criminal background checks before acquiring a firearm,” Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, maintains. “It is strange to me that (Republicans) would run a bill to make it easier for convicted criminals to get access to prohibited weapons.”

Republicans this year have introduced at least eight gun bills. Four bills are designed to reverse the gun-safety measures Democrats put into place last year, and two of the bills would expand gun rights into new territory.

Senate Democrats, wounded by the recall of Senate Majority Leader John Moore and Sen. Angela Giron because of their support for modest gun regulation in 2013, seem ready to make maximum use of their single-seat majority to protect the gun-safety gains they made last year.

Senate Bill 94 is sponsored by Sen. George Rivera, R-Pueblo, who won his seat in Giron’s recall election by challenging her decision to support gun-control legislation. His bill would repeal the requirement for background checks for the transfer of guns between private individuals.

“Additional rules, additional legislation does not change evil people who have evil intent from wanting to do something and being able to accomplish it regardless. That’s been my experience in law enforcement,” Rivera said, according to an Associated Press article.

The problem, however, is not simply people “who have evil intent.” According to recent research, ordinary people can be transformed by what psychologists call “embodied cognition.” The idea is that the simple act of holding a gun, even with no intent to fire it, “shades one’s perception, sometimes at odds with reality.”

Patrik Jonsson of the Christian Science Monitor concludes, “To opponents of concealed carry, such research suggests that a toxic mix of politics and paranoia, added to 30 ounces of chromed steel tucked legally under a belt at Wal-Mart, ultimately equals a scarier and more dangerous society.”

The House counterpart of SB94 is HB1041, Constitutional Carry, introduced by Reps. Jared Wright, R-Fruita, and Chris Holbert, R-Parker. It calls for eliminating entirely the state requirements for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Promoted by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, this bill would allow law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon for self-protection without acquiring a government-issued permit.

Wright represents a point of view that neither state nor federal authorities have any constitutional authority to regulate guns. He told the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby, “Permits shouldn’t be needed because everyone has a constitutional right to own and carry firearms already.”

These Republican bills will go nowhere in the present Democratic-controlled Legislature. Each of the bills has already been assigned to one of the “kill committees” the dominant party uses to prevent proposals of the minority from reaching the floor for debate.

Though the Democrats may be able to slow the march toward virtually unlimited rights for qualified individuals to carry concealed guns, it is unlikely they can reverse the trend toward an armed — and potentially dangerous — population in Colorado and in the nation as a whole.

Only the people can do that, and only if they recognize that the proliferation of guns and gun culture is not in the best interest of a nation that values a civil culture over Wild West shootouts to settle their inevitable differences.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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