DENVER – The latest effort by some Colorado Republicans to allow state residents to carry a concealed handgun without a permit passed its first committee hearing Wednesday evening hours after another U.S. mass shooting.
A similar measure was killed immediately in a Democrat-led House committee last year after it passed the Senate.
This year’s measure, Senate Bill 97, could face a similar fate this session, as Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Eric Walker called the advancement of the bill out of the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee while the Florida shooting was still unfolding “deranged.” The bill advanced to the Senate Appropriations Committee in a party-line 3-2 vote.
Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, and Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, R-Douglas County, are again the sponsors of this year’s legislation, as they were last year.
They and other proponents of the measure say that since most of Colorado already allows residents to openly carry a handgun without a permit, that they should also be able to put their handguns in a pocket or purse and avoid paying fees to the state and FBI.
“The idea behind constitutional carry is that you should be able to carry a concealed handgun without applying for government permission or paying an expensive fee, if you are otherwise legally able to carry a firearm,” Neville said in a statement.
Though Colorado law already prohibits gun registration in the state, local sheriff’s offices are currently in charge of issuing concealed weapons permits. A concealed-carry permit is not necessary when a person is in a private car.
In Denver, for instance, the sheriff’s department requires people to complete an information packet and several other forms, and must show deputies a handgun training certificate showing they are trained in proper gun usage.
People must also have a valid Colorado ID and must pay a $152 fee for the permit in Denver and some other counties. The permit has to be approved by the sheriff’s department.
Currently, it is a class 2 misdemeanor for Coloradans to knowingly carry a concealed weapon without a permit, and a class 6 felony if they do so on school grounds.
Under the proposed measure, anyone aged 21 and over with a legal gun would be able to conceal their gun in public without having taken a training class or obtaining a permit.
However, the same rules that concealed-carry permit holders have to operate under would apply to everyone under the proposed law, meaning unless they are permitted to do so, people would not be able to carry the concealed weapon on K-12 campuses.
According to a fiscal statement for the bill, there were 627 cases that involved at least one conviction for a person carrying a concealed weapon without a permit between January 2015 and December 2017.
The report says that 51,030 concealed carry permits were processed in 2017: 12,293 renewals and 38,737 new applications.
Under the bill, the permit process would remain in place so people could also be permitted to conceal-carry in other states that have a reciprocity law with Colorado.
According to the fiscal impact statement and the state, new concealed carry permits cost $39.50, with $10 going to the FBI and $29.50 going toward the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Permit renewals cost $13.