Action at the State Level on National Position

POSITION IN BRIEF:

Protect the health and safety of citizens through limiting the accessibility and regulating the ownership of handguns and semi-automatic weapons. Support regulation of firearms for consumer safety.

POSITION: (Adopted 1990, rev. 1994, 1998)

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the proliferation of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons in the United States is a major health and safety threat to its citizens. The League supports strong federal measures to limit the accessibility and regulate the ownership of these weapons by private citizens. The League supports regulating firearms for consumer safety.

The League supports licensing procedures for gun ownership by private citizens to include a waiting period for background check, personal identity verification, gun safety education and annual license renewal. The license fee should be adequate to bear the cost of education and verification.

The League supports a ban on “Saturday night specials,” enforcement of strict penalties for improper possession of and crimes committed with handguns and assault weapons, and allocation of resources to better regulate and monitor gun dealers.

HISTORY

During the early 1990s, the LWVCO responded to the increase in gun deaths and injuries, particularly those involving children, and supported successful bills to increase the penalty for drive-by shootings and to restrict possession of weapons within a school zone. The League opposed bills to allow state preemption of local gun control ordinances, and to make it easier to obtain a permit to carry a concealed gun anywhere in the state. All failed.

After the tragic April 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, the LWVCO and other groups called for action on prevention measures, but too little time remained in the session. The LWVCO cosponsored a May 1, 1999 protest and march against the National Rifle Association (NRA) meeting in Denver. Many believed that the NRA should cancel the meeting or move its location, in deference to the Columbine victims and families, but the NRA did not.

The 2000 legislature introduced some 24 gun-related bills. The LWVCO supported measures to reinstate Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) background checks on gun purchasers; prohibit straw purchases; close the gun show loophole; raise the minimum age to buy handguns from 18 to 21; and require safe storage of guns – all measures supported by the Governor and the last three defeated by his own party. This activated a new organization, SAFE (Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic) to get a ballot initiative on the 2000 ballot to close the gun show loophole. LWVCO supported the amendment, which passed by 70-30%.

In 2003 the legislature passed into law two major gun bills opposed by LWVCO; one mandated that sheriffs “shall” issue concealed-carry permits to qualified applicants; the other gutted the authority of cities and counties to regulate firearms locally.

In 2007 the legislature passed two bills authorizing the state to maintain the existing statewide database of concealed-carry permittees until 2011 and closing a loophole to clarify that a person cannot use a concealed-carry permit from another state, unless the person resides in the issuing state. The League supported both measures.

In 2009 an attempt, opposed by League, to reopen the gun show loophole was turned back.

The League supported two companion bills passed in 2010 that: 1) prohibit people arrested for felonies and violent crimes, or who have restraining orders against them, from purchasing firearms, and 2) require CBI to investigate old felony arrests where disposition of the case is not indicated in any database.

In 2013 League opposed bills that failed that would have increased the presence of guns in the community and exempted Colorado from federal firearms regulations. The governor signed five gun safety bills, all supported by League, that require background checks on almost all gun transfers, require gun buyers to pay for background checks, prohibit large-capacity (over 15 rounds) magazines, require in-person rather than on-line training for concealed carry permits, and mandate relinquishment of firearms by domestic violence offenders.

In the summer of 2013, opposition from the Gun Rights movement responding to these bills resulted in the unprecedented recall of two state senators and the resignation of a third.

A 2014 bill to restore the right to carry firearms to certain nonviolent felons, after a period of lawful abidance and a required appeal process, was supported by League on the basis of re-entry to the community. The bill was defeated.

In 2015 eleven bills to repeal or relax gun safety laws were introduced in the legislature and opposed by League. Bills that started in the House were killed in committee, while those introduced in the Senate passed, but were killed on reaching the House. The annual attempts to weaken or eliminate concealed carry (CCW) permit requirements were introduced. Deadly Force Against Intruders in Businesses (2009 on) made its annual appearance. One extreme bill would have allowed anyone with a CCW permit to carry a hidden weapon on school grounds and in public schools. Members of the Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence (CAGV), which includes LWVCO, testified in committee, where proponents of gun safety finally outnumbered gun advocates.