Senate to vote on 7 gun measures; owners’ liability most controversial

DENVER — It’ll be a marathon gun legislation day in two Colorado Senate committees Monday when senators hear debate and vote on seven gun-related bills, four of which have already cleared the House.

While each have become high profile, the one emerging as the most controversial is a measure to place strict liability on gun owners who possess military-style assault weapons.

The measure, SB196, is designed to get those who choose to own assault weapons to take the utmost care to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, according to the bill’s main sponsor, Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs.

“It’s OK to own these guns, but you’ve got to take all the responsibility along with that ownership,” Morse said.

“You may want to own these guns, but the rest of us don’t want to see it on the street in nefarious ways, so you are completely responsible making sure that doesn’t happen.”

Under the bill, anyone who sells or transfers an assault weapon, which is defined as any firearm that is not a handgun, shotgun or bolt-action rifle, must be “reasonably” certain that weapons won’t be used to cause injury to others, Morse said.

Until that is established, which only can be done by a jury during a civil trial, the original owner could be held liable for all financial costs associated with whatever crime is committed.

The measure doesn’t attempt to hold such assault weapon owners criminally liable for future crimes.

The bill also removes all state laws that protect gun manufacturers, distributors and sellers from product liability lawsuits.

Opponents say the measure is unworkable and possibly even unconstitutional.

Two other new measures will get their first hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee alongside the assault weapons bill.

One would require anyone who is issued a domestic violence protection order, or convicted in a domestic violence case, to surrender all firearms either by selling them or placing them in storage until they legally can possess a weapon again.

The other measure would require concealed weapons permit training courses to be done in-person, barring any portion of training to be done over the Internet or other electronic device.

The remaining four bills include measures to limit magazines to no more than 15 rounds, require background checks in all sales, make gun buyers pay for their own background checks and ban colleges and universities from permitting concealed-carry weapons on campus.

Senate leaders said they expect all measures that are approved in committee Monday to be debated on the Senate floor Friday.

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