DENVER - Republican efforts to put a freeze on mandatory background checks for private gun sales were defeated on a party line vote in the Senate’s State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee Monday night.
More than 20 people spoke in support of the measure and nearly 40 spoke out against it, during a marathon 6½ hour public hearing at the State Capitol.
Senate Bill 14-094 was sponsored by Sen. George Rivera, R-Pueblo. Rivera replaced Sen. Angela Giron after she was recalled because of her support for gun control legislation.
“I do not want to remove (all) background checks,” Rivera said. “I want to put the old system back in place.”
Rivera said only people who purchase firearms at gun stores or gun shows should undergo background checks. He called private sale background checks “an unreasonable burden.” He said they’re too costly and, often times, too hard to obtain in rural areas.
Rivera said an increasing number of gun dealers are opting not to provide background checks for private sellers, because the state limits how much they can charge. He also said there is no mechanism in place for private sellers to conduct background checks themselves.
Democrats see things differently.
“These laws that we have passed are truly making our communities safer,” said House Speaker Pro Tempore Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. “It’s reducing the threat of gun violence.”
Fields said the “Gun Lobby wants to make it easier for felons and other law breaking citizens to buy guns.”
But Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, said proponents of private sale background checks, including family members who've lost loved ones in high profile shootings, have not explained “how last year’s bill would have stopped any of them.”
Democrats counter that more than 100 people who tried to purchase guns privately were denied, because they were a dangerous felon, or had a domestic violence restraining order against them.
CBI head Ron Sloane told 7NEWS that at least 122 crimes were prevented because of the required background checks. Sloane said there’s no way to know what other kinds of crimes may have been prevented, but he said it’s a crime for a felon to possess a weapon and the background checks prevented those possessions from happening.
When asked why gun rights advocates tried to repeal private sale background checks when both houses of the legislature are controlled by Democrats, Joe Neville of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners said it’s all about the next election. He said two senators were recalled and another resigned because of voter anger over gun control.
“We’re going to continue pushing forward for the Second Amendment and protecting the Second Amendment until we finally get a legislature that understands,” Neville said.
When asked if background checks is an issue that voters should decide, Neville didn’t say yes or no.
“We’re going to educate voters about the issue,” he said. “And we’re going to let them know how their lawmakers voted.”
The committee chairman, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Adams County, said there is a compelling state interest in mandating background checks for private gun sales.
“Why would we make it easier for criminals to get guns?” Ulibarri asked. “I just don’t get it.”
The committee voted 3 – 2 to postpone the bill indefinitely.
Senate Bill 94: http://goo.gl/sccIs4