Denver Persistent legislative attempts to either strengthen a citizen's Second Amendment right to bear arms or to keep it from being watered down are making little headway in this year's session of the Colorado Legislature.
Two bills that their Republican sponsors claimed would reduce crime by enhancing a person's ability to use a weapon in self-defense already have been killed in Democrat-dominated committees.
Another bill still moving through the process, however, would increase the criminal liability for an adult who leaves a firearm in a location where an older teenager can get to it.
Senate Bill 49, sponsored by Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, would create a misdemeanor offense of criminal negligence against an adult who fails to secure a firearm that a 16- or 17-year-old then uses to harm or kill himself or others.
Neither of Craig's representatives to the General Assembly has had a chance to vote on a gun-related bill this year, but both Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, and Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, maintain they are strong Second Amendment advocates.
This, despite the fact that White and Taylor were on opposite sides of two gun-related bills that passed the Legislature a year ago and signed into law.
"My statement is that I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, always have been and always will be," Taylor said.
Taylor declined to explain his support last year for a bill that restricts reciprocity agreements with other states that issue concealed carry permits. Colorado still recognizes such permits from other states if the carrier is a resident of that state, but anyone who is a Colorado resident for more than 90 days must get a Colorado permit.
White opposed the reciprocity bill when it passed the House, but he sponsored another bill that led to the creation of a permanent statewide database of people with concealed carry permits.
"I know that's confused some people, but I'm staunchly in support of Second Amendment rights," White said. "The sheriff and police associations said it was an excellent tool for law enforcement and didn't want it to go away."
Taylor, who opposed making the database permanent, said he has not had a chance to review the Windels bill, which has passed the Senate State Affairs Committee and is awaiting an appropriations hearing before reaching the full Senate for debate.
Windels said her bill is motivated partially by the desire to reduce the incidence of teen-age suicide.
"All I'm trying to do is close a gap," she said. "The (National Rifle Association) has sent me hoards of phones calls and e-mails. By reading them, you would think I was gutting the entire Second Amendment. I am not against the Second Amendment"
Windels said prosecutors need another option when an adult leaves a firearm in a location where an older teenager has access to it.
"If a child is under 16, there is quite a range of laws that prosecutors can use," she said. "But under current law, if the child is 16 or 17, the only thing they can use to prosecute is knowingly and recklessly and intentional, which is a more serious offense. There's no simple negligence. I'm filling the gap so that if the adult negligently left that gun around, they can be prosecuted under negligence."
White said he would oppose Windels's bill if it reaches the House.
"It's more of the whittling away of our ability to defend ourselves in our homes," he said. "No responsible adult is going to do anything to put people in danger. Irresponsible adults are going to ignore it anyway."
Windels is a member of the State Affairs Committee - also known as the Senate's "kill committee" - which on Monday killed a bill from Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, that would have allowed someone to sue for treble damages if they were prevented from using a weapon in a location that had been posted as a gun-free zone.
"The Omaha shopping mall, where seven people were killed before the gunman shot himself, was a gun-free zone," Brophy said. "This bill would allow people to sue the shopping mall because if they had been allowed to carry a concealed weapon this might not have happened."
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted 5-4, also along straight party lines, to kill a bill from Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, that would have extended to places of business the provisions of Colorado's Make My Day law, which allows homeowners to use deadly force against intruders.
Gardner's bill, however, was more a victim of bad timing than outright opposition. The measure was the last item on the committee's lengthy agenda. By the time a vote was taken at 9:30 p.m., two members whose votes Gardner thought he had secured were gone.
"I had the votes and had the two people who supported the bill been there, it would have passed," Gardner said. "That's why I asked the chairman to lay the bill over so we would have had the opportunity for the full committee to vote."
The committee's chairman, Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, said it was his responsibility to keep bills moving because of approaching deadlines.
Gardner's identical bill passed the House last year but was killed in Senate State Affairs.