A bill to require universal background checks on gun sales was approved in the Colorado Senate on Friday and headed to the House. It is the latest in a series of proposed legislation 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 a bill that bans the purchase of ammunition magazines of more than 15 rounds was passed. It now awaits the governor’s signature. The legislation requiring universal background checks, House Bill 1229, was passed last week but was returned to the legislature so it could be amended to define how certain organizations, such as gun trusts, would act during gun transfers. The amended bill passed the Senate on a 19-14 vote.
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 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 and at a movie theater in Aurora, which 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 talked about a state tradition of outdoor sportsmanship being threatened.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) said that exemptions in the law 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 to argue against expanded background checks which, he said, "only includes good, law abiding people" and 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 that opponents have unfairly painted their efforts.
"These bills do not take firearms away from anyone who can legally have one," State Senate President John Morse said last week. "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."