Colorado senators back failed concealed-carry measure
July 22, 2009
DENVER – Colorado’s two Democratic senators voted Wednesday for a measure that would have let people carry hidden guns in 48 states if they have a concealed weapon permit in any one of them.
Despite the support from Sen. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, the legislation fell two votes shy of the 60 needed to pass. Tom Mauser, the father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser, had urged both senators to vote against the bill.
Colorado and 47 other states allow people to carry concealed weapons with varying requirements. Wisconsin and Illinois don’t issue such permits at all.
Colorado already allows people with permits from 27 other states to carry concealed weapons here, and those states also honor Colorado permits, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Colorado honors the permits of any state that asks it to enter a reciprocity arrangement, although that doesn’t mean those states have concealed carry laws comparable to Colorado. CBI spokesman Lance Clem said the state used to regularly compare other states’ gun laws with Colorado’s, but the attorney general’s office said the agency that it wasn’t qualified to analyze statutes.
Eleven of the 20 states Colorado doesn’t have reciprocity arrangements with don’t have such deals with any state. They include neighboring Nebraska.
Under the failed measure, every state that issues concealed carry permits would automatically have had to honor permits issued by any other state.
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Udall said Colorado’s experience with its relatively relaxed reciprocity law led him to conclude that the amendment wouldn’t have raised the risk of unlawful gun smuggling or other crime.
“It does not encourage irresponsible behavior or absolve anyone from criminal prosecution in Colorado if they use a gun in the commission of a crime,” Udall said in a written statement.
Bennet also cited the fact that Colorado already had reciprocity arrangements with a majority of states in explaining his vote.
Meanwhile, Mauser said he was surprised to learn Colorado already had arrangements so many states but he didn’t think the state should have to add any more.
“If we don’t have a reciprocity agreement, why should we have one forced on us?” said Mauser, whose plea to Udall and Benett was published in a full-page ad in The Denver Post.
The ad was paid for by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was among 450 mayors who opposed the measure in an earlier ad in USA Today paid for by the group.
Under Colorado’s 2003 concealed carry law, people who “chronically and habitually” use alcohol, are illegal drug users or who have a restraining order issued against are barred from getting permits. Permit holders also must submit fingerprints, undergo a criminal background check and attend a handgun training class unless they have law enforcement or military experience.
Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at Third Way, a Washington, D.C. think tank that supports gun rights, said Colorado’s concealed weapons law is about average among states who have them. He said the failed measure would have had a greater impact on other states with stricter laws and those who don’t have reciprocity deals.
Colorado’s permits are issued by county sheriffs and are good for five years.
Mauser thinks Colorado’s standards are good ones, but he and other critics complain that the lack of a statewide database of permit holders means there’s no guarantee people who have run-ins with the law will lose their permits.
The state does keep a list of permit holders that sheriffs alone can consult. The main aim is to detect people who are shopping around for a permit, not to alert authorities to people who should have their permit suspended, Clem said.
Gov. Bill Ritter, a former prosecutor, cited the lack of a database when he vetoed a bill this year that would have excused concealed-carry permit holders from background checks each time they buy a gun. Backers said they should be exempted because of the background check the undergo to get a permit.
Colorado requires that all people buying guns at a gun show pass a background check because of a law passed by voters following the Columbine shootings. Three of the four guns used at Columbine were bought at gun shows.