House Committees approve college campus concealed weapons ban, fee for background checks

Dozens testify on both sides

DENVER - By a one vote margin, the House Education Committee voted to ban concealed weapons in college campus buildings.

The vote was along party lines.

The sponsor of House Bill 13-1226, Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, says she introduced the bill because students and staff at CU told her they didn’t want to have to worry about guns in the classroom.

Students spoke out on both sides of the issue.

Sarah Kelly told lawmakers that there is a sense of community at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

She said, “That sense of community is threatened by the presence of potential weapons on campus.”

But Daniel Koch, of the University of Colorado at Denver, said “Concealed carry firearms are, for all intents and purposes, the last and only line of defense against an active shooter.”

Levy took issue with that.

“Pardon me for saying it,” Levy told 7NEWS, “but I think they’re fooling themselves if they think they’ll actually be able to use the gun in self defense.”

Levy said that if a concealed carry permit holder is a woman, there a good chance that an attacker would grab the gun and use it against her.

“I think it’s a false sense of security,” she said. “We’re far better off relying on campus police, just relying on common sense.  That’s what most of us, who do not have any guns, rely on every day.”

But Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Douglas County, said a 21-year old college student, with a concealed carry permit, has as much right to defend themselves in a campus setting as they do in their own home or workplace.”

Holbert said it’s not just a safety issue, it’s a constitutional one.

But Levy said the Supreme Court has already ruled that states can put restrictions on concealed carry.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith testified in opposition to Levy’s bill.

Smith said colleges have authority under current law to ban weapons.

“They simply have to put the same protections, the same security staff, the same metal detectors that you have here to protect the Governor and the Legislature.”

Committee members voted 7-6 to forward the proposal on to the Appropriations Committee.

Shortly after that hearing, the House Finance Committee heard from supporters and opponents of House Bill 13-1228, which authorizes the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to charge a fee for criminal background checks on people purchasing firearms.

Some lawmakers questioned the constitutionality of the proposal which they likened to a poll tax, saying it’s not fair to charge people to exercise their second amendment right.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, said Colorado charged for background checks from 1994 to 1999.

When Rep. Janak Joshi, R-El Paso County, asked whether taxpayers would subsidize people living at the poverty level who wanted to exercise their second amendment right, Court replied, “I believe that if someone can afford the hundreds of dollars that it costs to buy a gun, that a $12 fee is not an imposition.”

Background checks are currently funded by taxpayers.

Court’s proposal was approved on a 7-6 party line vote and now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

The gun-control bills are in response to mass shootings at a suburban Denver movie theater and an elementary school in Connecticut.

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