Almost 400,000 people tried to buy firearms last year in Colorado, where historic new gun laws went into effect in July, The Denver Post first reported.
In 2013, the Colorado Bureau of Investigations processed a total of 396,955 background checks, the highest number of checks in state history. It was an increase of more than 50,000 from 343,302 checks in 2012, which was also a record year for gun sales.
A total of 7,351 applications for both private and retail sales were denied in 2013, at a rate of 1.85 percent. The denial rate in 2012 was 2.14 percent. The most common reasons for denial varied: 1,412 were due to an arrest or conviction of assault; 381 because the applicant had a restraining order against them; 166 for arrest or conviction of sexual assault; and 41 were because of a homicide conviction, and arrests or convictions for other crimes. There were a total of 6,198 private sale background checks from July through December, with 122 of those denied during that period.
"The vast majority of gun buyers are law-abiding people, and for them a background check is no problem," said Rep. Rhonda Fields, cosponsor of the background check law, to The Huffington Post. "But the new law is preventing significant numbers of violent criminals and people under domestic restraining orders from buying guns. That's exactly what we intended with our new background check law, and the stats prove that it's working. It's making our neighborhoods safer, and that makes me very happy."
In July, the state's background check law expanded to include the private sales and transfers of firearms. Colorado House Democrats praised the new background check law in November when early data was released from the Department of Public Health and Safety.
“The stats directly contradict the contention that criminals would simply evade the law and that it was unenforceable,” said McCann (D-Denver), a co-sponsor of the background check law, in a statement in November. “The people of Colorado overwhelmingly support the new law requiring background checks on all gun sales. Anyone who continues to argue against it is going to have to explain to the voters why we would want to make it easier for criminals to get guns.”
Colorado voters appear to strongly support the universal background check legislation. A recent Qunnipiac survey showed that 85 percent of state voters approve of the new gun law.
But despite public support for stricter gun control, two prominent state Democrats were voted out of office over their support for the new gun controls. State Sen. Angela Giron (Pueblo) and state Sen. John Morse (Colo. Springs) were both removed from office in what was Colorado's first-ever recall election. A third lawmaker, Sen. Evie Hudak (D-Westminster), resigned as another possible recall election against her began to take shape.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with a statement from Rep. Rhonda Fields.