Lawmakers consider changes to concealed weapons law
DENVER When lawmakers allowed Coloradans to obtain permits for concealed weapons four years ago, part of the package included a statewide database that tracks who gets them.That database is supposed to expire this year, and at least four bills are floating in the Colorado General Assembly regarding its future.State Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, is carrying a bill that would eliminate the database altogether. Other lawmakers have offered bills to the opposite effect.Another Republican testified this week about a bill that would extend the database’s life.State Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, told the House Judiciary Committee he would try to toe a very fine line with his measure, House Bill 1174.”I believe this database is an important piece of being able to maintain our concealed-carry permit laws as they have existed,” he told the committee shortly before his bill was approved 7-4 Wednesday. It now heads to the full House for consideration; White doesn’t have a Senate sponsor yet.White was the co-sponsor of the original 2003 measure that allowed Coloradans to carry concealed weapons, and he said the pro-gun lobby has labeled him a sellout for his latest bill.”I’m being portrayed by some members of the gun community as being a communist,” he said after the hearing. “I’m getting a lot of negative vituperation.”White said he owns a gun and supports the right of Coloradans to carry concealed ones. But if the database tied to that goes away, he said, many people who supported the original law might turn against it.That includes the County Sheriffs of Colorado and the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.Weld County Sheriff John Cooke – whose office is responsible for issuing the permits – opts not to enter permitees’ information into the database. Most counties do use it.”I don’t see the need to put law-abiding citizens in that kind of database,” Cooke said. “I am at odds with the Colorado sheriffs.”Renfroe, whose bill is scheduled to be reviewed by a committee next week, echoed Cooke’s statements. He disagreed with White’s belief that allowing the database to go away, or letting it “sunset,” could jeopardize the long-term rights of gun owners.”I never think it’s good to think your 2nd Amendment right will be taken away or infringed upon if you don’t make concessions,” he said.State Sen. John Morse, D-Fountain, has yet another bill – which will be heard by a committee the same day as Renfroe’s – that would require concealed weapons carriers only have a permit from Colorado. Now, if someone is denied a permit in Colorado, they can get one by mail elsewhere, including through the state of Florida.Morse, the former police chief of Fountain, a town near Colorado Springs, said he considered the database an essential law enforcement tool. It would be nice to know, for instance, whether a car he pulls over contains a person with a concealed weapons permit.He always asks anyway, however.”I had 85-year-old ladies look at me cross-eyed because I would ask them the same question I would ask a 16-year-old gang banger,” he said.He said gun owners shouldn’t worry about their names being in a state database.”It’s in all kinds of databases. You have a driver’s license, you have license plates,” he said.Cooke said he supports Morse’s bill, because someone with a Colorado driver’s license also should have a Colorado permit.But he disagreed not having the database would disadvantage law enforcement.A fourth bill, which would allow municipalities to decide whether people should be allowed to have a gun in his or her car, has yet to go before a committee.White said one of the main reasons he agreed to carry HB1174 was because the political climate has changed, with Democrats now controlling both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s mansion. He wanted to shore up the database so no one could attack the permit itself, he said.”I’m just trying to give everybody a reason not to rock the boat,” he said. “And they’re rocking mine now, but that’s my job; that’s what I got elected to do.”What’s nextSenate Bill 69, sponsored by state Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, would eliminate the state’s database of concealed weapons permit carriers.The bill will be heard in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee at 1:30 p.m. Monday in room 353 at the Capitol in Denver.Senate Bill 34, sponsored by State Sen. John Morse, D-Fountain, would prevent gun owners from carrying a concealed weapons permit from any state other than Colorado.The bill will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee at 1:30 p.m. Monday in room 352 at the Capitol in Denver.
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