Democrats in Senate committee shoot down Colorado concealed weapons changes
March 23, 2011
DENVER – A concealed-weapons change favored by Republicans and gun-rights activists was rejected Tuesday by a committee in the state’s Democratic Senate.
The measure would have made Colorado the fifth state not to require permits for carrying concealed weapons. The measure, which passed Colorado’s Republican House last month with a handful of Democratic supporters, would not have changed who may carry concealed weapons.
Instead, the bill would have removed the requirement to obtain a permit, saving gun owners from having to take safety courses and undergo a background check before being allowed to carry concealed weapons.
The optional permit plan divided Colorado sheriffs. Lawmakers on the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee heard from a rural sheriff who supported the change, and another sheriff who opposed the idea.
Chad Day, sheriff of rural Yuma County along the Kansas border, told lawmakers that permit requirements infringe on citizens’ right to bear arms.
“It’s a right that law-abiding citizens are to enjoy without impediment,” Day said.
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The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, and the sheriff of left-leaning Boulder County, opposed making permits optional.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle argued that many gun owners don’t know who is and isn’t permitted to carry concealed weapons, making permits a good idea. Pelle told lawmakers about failed applicants in his county, including a blind man who wanted to protect himself on public buses.
Pelle dismissed arguments from supporters that the bill leaves intact prohibitions on people who can carry concealed weapons – limits including people under 21, people showing signs of mental illness and people with a restraining order against them.
“I do not believe any of these people are going to self-police,” Pelle said.
Gun-rights supporters countered that existing permit requirements hardly stop gun violence anyway.
“A criminal is going to be a criminal whether he has a concealed weapon permit or not,” said Denver lawyer Doc Miller, who supported making permits optional.
The committee voted 3-2 along party lines to reject the idea. The action makes any permit change in Colorado highly unlikely this year.
Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, argued that permits don’t bar most gun owners from carrying a concealed weapon as protection, they just set up a safeguard.
“In my mind, that’s not too much to ask,” Heath said.
The bill’s passage would have made Colorado the fifth state with optional concealed-carry permits. Alaska and Arizona don’t require permits, and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed into law optional permits in that state earlier this month.