By Tori Richards | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — Colorado was once one of the most lenient gun-control states, but now a slate of Democratic-sponsored bills could change all that and give the state a greater say in who carries a weapon.
As one legislative aide put it, “It is the Wild West out here.”
But many Coloradoans — both residents and police alike — historically have liked it that way.
“An armed society is a polite society. The more people who have guns, the politer the society becomes,” Weld County Sheriff John Cooke told Watchdog.org. “I encourage my constituents to get concealed weapon permits. We had 450 issued in February alone.”
Weld and half the state’s 62 sheriffs descended on the state capitol Monday to speak out against the bills. But the recent mass shootings in Aurora and Connecticut have left lawmakers thinking they have to do something to curb the violence.
“We’re not taking anyone’s guns away, you just need to go through a background check if you buy one,” said Colorado Majority Caucus Whip Elizabeth McCann, D-Denver. “None of these bills take guns away except from people who shouldn’t have them.”
With a Democratic-controlled Legislature and governor’s office, these bills have a good chance of passing with the exception of one that places liability on sellers and owners if a gun is used in a crime.
Other bills seek to limit magazine and shotgun shell sizes while adding background checks and fees, training requirements, and restriction for domestic violence offenders.
McCann told Colorado Watchdog that she will introduce an eighth bill next week that restricts usage by people with a history of mental illness.
Gun control is an emotional issue and it also brought out hoards of protesters along with supporters like Mark Kelly, husband of shooting victim and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. He testified as did family members of victims from the Aurora theater and Connecticut elementary school massacres.
“It’s unenforceable,” said Cooke, who is opposed particularly against the background check issue. “The problem is, I believe it’s the first step toward registration of firearms and toward a national database. The state government has no right to know who owns guns.”
He said residents should arm themselves as a deterrent against crime.
“True defense is an absolute right, people should be allowed to have a gun any time they want,” he added.
That stance is a polar opposite from restrictive states such as California, where top cops have designated days akin to a food drive where guns can be turned over to the police. Concealed weapons are frowned upon and law enforcement signs off on such permits only when necessary, such as the applicant is a prosecutor or jewelry store owner.
Cooke said he would prefer that gun owners have training, but it’s not necessary for protection against attackers.
“It doesn’t take much to know how to pull the trigger,” he said. “The less the government is involved the better.”
He cited a statistic that the United States has a 13-percent occupied home burglary rate while England, where guns are outlawed, has 59 percent.
“Any of these things that we are doing will help prevent people who shouldn’t have guns from getting guns,” she said. “We aren’t going to prevent all shootings by any means. But the more difficult it is for people who shouldn’t have them, it will definitely impact the number of people injured with gun violence.”
Contact Tori Richards at [email protected] or follow her on twitter: @newswriter2