By: Robert Davis
In an emotionally charged meeting, Colorado’s House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee recently voted not to pass three bills to relax gun control laws.
HB19-1049 would have allowed handguns on school campuses; HB19-1021 would have repealed ammunition magazine prohibitions; and HB19-1022 would have given business owners the right to use deadly force against unlawful intruders.
Each bill was defeated along a party line margin of 6-3 and postponed indefinitely.
Concealed Carry on School Grounds
Survivors of the Columbine massacre and gun rights advocates offered personal stories and anecdotal testimonies in favor of the bill, but were met with sharp criticism from opponents.
“It shouldn’t be a crime to have a concealed carry [weapon] and go on campus and do what you gotta do to stop something like this from happening,” Evan Todd, a Columbine survivor and former classmate of House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, said during the committee hearing.
“I don’t want to see my kid on the news running past dead bodies. We need to have options for teachers, staff, and all that for schools. We need concealed carry permit holders to be able to go on campus without the fear of being put in jail should something happen,” Todd said.
Critics of the concealed carry bill cited concerns about public safety.
“Our heartbreak over the violence that occurs daily as well as school shooting tragedies brought me here today,” said Amanda Whitworth, a mother of four and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “But, please do not be fooled, this bill does nothing to make Coloradoans safer.”
Other teachers and mothers gave similar testimony, offering evidence that their concealed carry classes did not guarantee that they could decide when is the appropriate time to shoot, or that they could shoot straight if they needed to.
Will Saguin, a Littleton resident, criticized the inherent contradiction of the critics’ testimony.
“There’s just something I cannot understand about the people that oppose this bill,” Saguin said. “I don’t understand the scorn why we don’t protect our children the same way we protect jewelry stores, banks, congressmen, and even our president. Even Michael Bloomberg protects himself with guns.”
Rep. Neville countered the critics’ arguments, saying those who wish to protect students should be empowered to do so.
“Right now we criminalize those who want to help protect our students,” Neville said. “We should be empowering them so we can deter any of these [tragedies] from happening. The people who commit these crimes are cowards, make no mistake about it. If they knew they could potentially meet some pushback, they wouldn’t commit these crimes.”
Repeal Magazine Prohibitions
The State Affairs Committee continued to support the erroneous idea that large capacity magazines cause mass shootings.
Bill sponsor Rep. Stephen Humphrey (R-Weld) pointed out that gun control laws only affect law-abiding citizens and will not deter would-be killers.
“If you look at the cases where mass shootings occur with multiple guns and no large capacity magazines, versus cases where there was one gun and a large capacity magazine, more people are actually killed in cases with multiple guns,” Humphrey argued, citing statistics from the Cato Institute.
“The truth of the matter is, you can’t stop criminals from obtaining the magazines they want,” Humphrey said. “They’re easy to make. They’re just boxes with springs. They can just drive 90 miles north to Wyoming and buy one anyway.”
Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone) said the magazine ban has negatively affected Colorado’s economy.
“We lost jobs and revenue in Weld County with Magpul moving to the state of Wyoming,” Saine said. “We lost 400 jobs and $85 million in revenue. How is this compassionate?”
The committee members pressed Reps. Humphrey and Saine about mass shootings in Las Vegas, Nevada, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, and at the Aurora, Colorado theatre, where large capacity magazines were used.
Saine and Humphrey said the magazine ban has not stopped mass shootings or unlawful killings from happening, which was the proposed reasoning for passing the legislation.
“You need to be armed as well as your attacker [is] to be able to protect your family,” Saine said.
Taylor Rhodes, a lobbyist at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, testified in favor of the bill, calling into question whether or not the ban is effectively lowering crime rates.
“That was the sole reason this ban was signed in 2013,” Rhodes said. “If that’s the case, why haven’t these metrics changed?”
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, the rate of use of a firearm to commit a murder increased by 10.1 percent between 2013 and 2017. A recent report by FOX 31 Denver found that this increase is largely due to gang and domestic violence, not mass shootings.
Three mass shootings have occurred in Colorado since the magazine ban took place. In 2013, Noah Harphram killed three people on Halloween night; in 2015, three people were killed by Robert Lewis Dear at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs; and in 2017, three people were killed at a Walmart in Thornton.
Opponents stressed traditional gun safety values should still apply today. Jean Fredlund, the at-large director for the Colorado League of Women Voters in Adams County, offered as evidence her memories of learning to shoot with her father.
“My father told me you only need two rounds: one to take the animal down and the other to take the animal out of its misery,” Fredlund said. “He allowed me to carry three extra rounds just in case I got lost, so I could fire the universal three shot signal to come find me.”
Deadly Force Against Intruder at a Business
Colorado’s “Make My Day” laws have been on the books since 1985, when they were known as the “Castle Doctrine.” The law gives home owners the right to use deadly force to defend their property against unlawful intruders who seek to do physical harm. The application of these laws, however, has been muddied when it comes to extending them to business owners.
“We already have a version of this bill on the books as it pertains to the home,” bill sponsor, Rep. Shane Sandridge (R-El Paso), said. “This just extends it to businesses as well.”
Opponents of the bill say it would allow anyone to shoot someone who enters their business at any time. Sandridge, however, who holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s in security studies and is also a former inner-city police officer in Kansas City and former clinical psychotherapist for kids with criminal tendencies, was quick to point out the specific clauses which identify the cases where deadly force is protected. Those include, according to the bill’s text, when the business owner or manager has a reasonable belief that the unlawful intruder is “committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry.”
Sandridge also noted that this bill can help those in the marijuana industry protect their businesses, since dispensaries are cash only.
The marijuana industry has generated nearly $6 billion in revenue and generated nearly $1 billion in tax revenue for the state. It also accounts for 125,000 jobs in Colorado.
A recent report from the Colorado District Attorney’s office found there have been 11 smash-and-grab shootings at dispensaries since legalization.
Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @davisonthebeat.