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Colorado gun-control legislation advances

A proposal requiring universal background checks for firearm sales clears the state Legislature.

March 15, 2013|By Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times
  • Colorado State Sen. Angela Giron works at a desk near her poster bearing the faces and names of the young victims of the Sandy Hook School massacre during a recent debate period for one of several gun control bills before Colorado lawmakers.
Colorado State Sen. Angela Giron works at a desk near her poster bearing… (Brennan Linsley, Associated…)

Colorado lawmakers passed a bill to require universal background checks for gun sales Friday, sending the legislation to the governor's desk. It is the latest in a series of proposals to tighten gun laws in the state, the fates of which are now being decided in the House and Senate.

The last several days have been marked by many hours of emotional debate over the proposed laws.

Earlier this week, state lawmakers passed a bill that bans the purchase of ammunition magazines of more than 15 rounds. It now awaits the governor's signature. The legislation requiring universal background checks, House Bill 1229, had also passed but was returned to the legislature so it could be amended to define how organizations such as gun trusts would act during gun transfers. The amended bill passed the Senate on a 19-14 vote. It passed the House 36 to 27 a few hours later.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who called for universal background checks in his State of the State address in January, is expected to sign the bill.

The state has been thrust into the national spotlight as a debate over gun control rages in the aftermath of the shooting deaths in December of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Colorado, a battleground state where many revere gun ownership, has also been roiled by two of the largest mass shootings in U.S. history, at Columbine High School in 1999 and at an Aurora movie theater in 2012. That shooting left 12 people dead and 70 injured.

Republicans in both chambers have voiced strong opposition to House Bill 1229. On Friday, several said they feared that young people in 4-H clubs and Boy Scout programs could be targeted. Others said a state tradition of outdoor sportsmanship was threatened.

Republican state Sen. Kevin Lundberg said that exemptions in the legislation meant to cover certain gun transfers were insufficient and could put a burden on common transfers between friends and neighbors.

"We've made a dysfunctional mess of these exemptions," he said. "No one, practically speaking, will be able to get their arms around it."

On Friday the Denver Post reported that universal checks could be hampered because some of the federally licensed dealers who would be required to conduct them have said the $10 fee for the service is not enough to cover its costs.

Also on Friday, National Rifle Assn. Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre used his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C., to argue against expanding the background-check system, which, he said, "only includes good, law abiding people." He repeated his allegation that new checks would lead to a national registry of firearms that the government would use to tax or take guns.

Supporters of the tightened gun laws say opponents have unfairly painted their efforts.

"These bills do not take firearms away from anyone who can legally have one," Colorado Senate President John Morse said in a statement. "Those political scare tactics have zero truth behind them. These bills are reasonable policies that respect 2nd Amendment rights, while helping to keep Colorado safe."

paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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