State Legislature

Democrats in Colorado Legislature stop three gun bills

After Florida school shooting, lawmakers hear testimony on widening firearm freedom in schools

Posted 2/22/18

Three gun-related proposals — one propelled by a former Columbine High School student — in the state Legislature hit a wall the week after a shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17, but …

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State Legislature

Democrats in Colorado Legislature stop three gun bills

After Florida school shooting, lawmakers hear testimony on widening firearm freedom in schools

Posted

Three gun-related proposals — one propelled by a former Columbine High School student — in the state Legislature hit a wall the week after a shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17, but two more bills were on the runway as of Feb. 22.

A bill to allow the permitted concealed carrying of handguns on the grounds of public elementary, middle, junior high or high schools in the state was struck down in committee on a 6-3 party-line vote Feb. 21, according to a news release from the state House Democrats, who are in the majority. Generally, people 21 and older in Colorado can get permits for concealed carry.

Among the bill's sponsors was state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock.

“As a former Columbine student who was a sophomore during the shootings on April 20, 1999, I will do everything in my power to prevent Colorado families from enduring the hardships my classmates and I faced that day,” Neville said in a news release.

The proposal, House Bill 18-1037, has been introduced every year Neville has served in the House — since 2015 — according to a news release from the state House Republicans. It would have made concealed carry legal in schools by default, but it would have allowed school districts to override that or make other school-specific policies regarding carrying guns, according to Joel Malecka, spokesman for the House Republicans.

The bill was introduced Jan. 10, and lawmakers heard testimony during a hearing that lasted more than nine hours Feb. 21 on that and two other gun-related proposals, with testimony charged by the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida. Students from Littleton Public Schools came to the Capitol and gave input to lawmakers on the same day as a walkout at all three LPS high schools regarding policies related to guns and what the response to mass shootings should be.

Though gun-related proposals are heard annually, this year's testimony was remarkable because of the number of students who spoke, the Democrats' release said. Students from a number of different schools, including from Nederland, came to the Capitol, Malecka said. Students, including some from Arapahoe High School, testified.

“If guns are allowed at school, I will stay home,” Elina Asensio, a 12-year-old area student, said to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, which considered the House bills.

People testified in support, too, including a former Columbine High student who was at the school during the 1999 shooting, Malecka said.

State Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, chair of the committee, voiced opposition.

“I have heard these bills for five years now, and I keep coming back to the fundamental idea that it's absurd to suppose that the way to reduce gun violence is to add more guns to the mix,” Foote said, according to the release.

Malecka said it was about deterring future school shootings.

“Forcing a would-be shooter to consider that they may face opposing force (would help),” said Malecka, adding that creating that uncertainty could stop shootings. “You don't attack a police station because you know” people are armed inside.

A bill to expand concealed-carry rights in the state Senate is still alive. But this one would not allow concealed carrying of guns on school grounds. Senate Bill 18-097, sponsored by Neville's father, Republican state Sen. Tim Neville of Jefferson County, would allow law-abiding people the right of concealed carry without a permit. It was introduced Jan. 22 and moved forward to the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to a news release from Senate Republicans Feb. 15. Both the elder and younger Neville sponsored the House bill.

“The idea behind constitutional carry is that you should be able to carry a concealed handgun without applying for government permission,” Tim Neville said, according to the release.

Another bill stopped in the House on Feb. 21 would have repealed the magazine-limit law passed in 2013, according to the Democrats' release. It failed on another 6-3 vote.

The proposal, HB18-1015, would have eliminated the limit of 15-round capacity for gun magazines and would have allowed the sale or transfer of high-capacity magazines. It was introduced Jan. 10.

Tom Sullivan, the father of one of the 12 people killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, asked sponsors of that bill if they would review the video showing the violence caused by such a magazine in that shooting, the Democrats' release said.

“July 20, 2012, was a before-and-after moment for my city,” said Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, according to the release. “After what we've heard from Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan, I think that alone ought to drive a 9-0 vote against this bill.”

A third bill stopped in the House on a 6-3 vote was HB18-1074, which would have extended the right to use deadly force against an intruder under certain conditions to include owners, managers and employees of a business. That was introduced Jan. 16.

Still upcoming for a committee vote is a bill to ban possession, buying and selling of “bump stocks,” or as the proposal would define them, “multi-burst trigger activators.” The bill, SB18-051, defines them as devices that attach to semi-automatic guns and allow them to fire two or more shots in a burst, or a device that increases the rate of fire of a semi-automatic gun. The Las Vegas shooter in October, who killed 58 and injured more than 500, used a bump stock during his attack, authorities said. The bill was introduced Jan. 10 and was scheduled for a committee hearing Feb. 26, which was then rescheduled to March 19.

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