After hours of emotional testimony from opponents and supporters of gun control referencing mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown as well as the Columbine High School massacre, Colorado lawmakers have passed a new gun control measure that, if signed into law, would require background checks for all private gun sales in the state.
The House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 1229, on a 7 to 4 party line vote, which requires universal background checks on all private gun sales in Colorado. Read the full text of HB-1229 here.
The bill now heads to the House Appropriations Committee for another vote.
Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), whose son was murdered by a gunman in 2005, sponsored HB-1229 told The Denver Post in January that background checks on private gun sales was needed to close a "loophole."
The Huffington Post's Chris Kirkham reported that the private gun sale background check loophole creates an "invisible" firearms market that is severely lacking in regulation. Via Kirkham's report:
More than three-quarters of states have no laws requiring background checks or documentation during private party sales, increasing the risk of weapons falling into the hands of convicted felons, juveniles or those who are mentally ill. As lawmakers in Washington examine gun control measures in the wake of last week's school massacre in Connecticut, many advocates and researchers are pushing to extend federal regulations requiring background checks and registrations to private gun sales.
"Fixing this would be one of the single most important things we could do to address overall gun violence," said David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "A lot of people don't understand that this is the way the world works. It means that people who everybody agrees shouldn't get guns have little trouble getting guns."
Under the current system, federal law on gun purchases extends only to the first point of sale. Federally licensed firearms dealers are required to perform background checks on prospective buyers to screen out those with felony records, a history of domestic violence or mental illness and several other categories. Dealers are also required to keep detailed records of customers.
On private party sales, none of those restrictions apply under federal rules. States come up with their own laws governing the secondary gun market, and the restrictions vary widely, leaving an uneven patchwork of regulations from state to state.
Colorado already requires background checks at gun shows, but there is no legislation in place that requires checks on a private party firearm sale.
The gun control advocacy group Mayor's Against Illegal Guns, co-chaired by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been pushing for mandatory background checks for private gun sales a top priority for reform for years and in December, the group sent a letter to President Obama asking him once again to close the private sales loophole.
Although, in general, mass shooting events have made little lasting impact on public support for stricter gun laws, polls following the Sandy Hook shooting suggests a bump in support. A HuffPost/YouGov survey from December found that 50 percent of Americans say gun laws should be made more strict. The poll found support for banning semi-automatic weapons as well as magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Recent polling from Project New America/Chris Keating and The Denver Post found that a majority of Coloradans' favor stricter gun control.
Fox31 first reported on a survey from PNA/Chris Keating which asked 905 Colorado voters, in general, if they favor stricter gun control -- 55 percent of Colorado voters said they favor of stricter gun control, while only 40 percent were opposed.
The same poll also asked Colorado voters about specific gun law proposals and the margin of support was wide for nearly all the measures in question, according to PNA/Chris Keating:
- 95 percent of voters agree that people with "serious mental health problems" should be prevented from owning a gun.
- 80 percent of voters agree that judges should be able to order someone who is "convicted of domestic violence or given a restraining order" to surrender their guns to the court.
- 80 percent of voters agree that all private gun sales should go through a licensed dealer and be subject to a background check.
- 65 percent of voters agree that guns should be banned on college and university campuses.
- 61 percent of voters agree that the sale and possession of semi-automatic guns and assault rifles should be banned.
- 61 percent of voters agree that the sale and possession of high-capacity ammunition clips, which allow some guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before reloading, should be banned.
The PNA/Keating poll echoes similar sentiments found in a recent Denver Post poll which found greater support for gun control measures than for gun-owner rights. According to The Denver Post, 60 percent of Colorado voters support proposals that would: ban assault-style rifles, limit high-capacity magazines and require universal background checks on all gun sales.
Although the Post poll found that 50 percent of those who responded say it is more important to protect gun ownership to 45 percent who say it is more important to control gun ownership, those percentages have shifted significantly since the last time the Post conducted the same poll in September. Last September, the breakdown was 56 percent saying it was more important to protect gun rights to only 39 percent saying it was more important to control guns.
The House committee is also expected to vote on House Bill 1224 Tuesday, a bill that bans the sale and possession of so-called high-capacity magazines, gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds or more than five shotgun shells. A person who already owned a high-capacity magazine fitting the description would be able to continue to own the magazine but would have to maintain continuous possession of it.