Restrictive Carry Bill Invites Another Columbine

by Ari Armstrong, RMGO Research Director

The Colorado Senate will consider a bill (S01-083) that would create more "criminal safety zones," areas where law-abiding citizens are prevented from defending themselves and others with a firearm.

In particular, the bill states a "permit... does not authorize a person to carry a concealed handgun into... the real estate and all improvements erected thereon of any public or private elementary, middle, junior high or high school..."  

This means schools will remain the main target of deranged killers. At Columbine, the killers knew they would face at most one armed guard. That guard was assigned to Columbine because he was incompetent with a gun. If even a handful of anonymous responsible adults at the school had carried a concealed handgun, the killers would have hesitated to even enter the school. If they had gone ahead with their plans, the loss of life likely would have been much lower. In Mississippi and Pennsylvania, school shootings were stopped when armed adults intervened several minutes before police arrived.

Liberal concealed carry laws are the only types of gun laws proven to reduce mass public shootings and violent crime generally. Yale scholar John Lott found, "When different states passed right-to-carry laws... the number of multiple-victim public shootings declined by a whopping 84 percent" (More Guns, Less Crime, 2nd Ed., page 196).

Currently, local law officials may issue permits at their discretion. The Senate bill under consideration would restrict the rights of current permit holders in Colorado. Thus, it would be a step in the wrong direction.

The creation of "criminal safety" zones is not the only problem with this year's bill, however. It would also require a fee of up to $100. "For each $10 increase in fees, the percentage of the population with permits falls by one half of one percentage point," Lott found, which corresponds to an increase in violent crime rates relative to no fee (178-180). Notably, fees especially harm the poor. Because the poorest areas are also often high crime areas, the ability to carry a concealed handgun is especially effective at reducing violent crime.

To obtain a permit, the applicant must take a mandated training class with "instructors or curriculum certified by the National Rifle Association or by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board." Of course every gun owner should train to use the firearm safely and effectively. The problem with mandated classes is that they add costs and time delays. Lott found that mandatory training does not increase the usefulness of concealed carry in reducing crime (86), though it does prevent some people from getting a permit and thus weaken the over-all benefits of concealed carry (176).

The bill does contain a provision for emergency permits: "[A] sheriff shall issue a temporary emergency permit to carry a concealed handgun to any person residing in a sheriff's jurisdiction who applies pursuant to this section and and who the sheriff has reason to believe may be in immediate danger." Unfortunately, this does little to protect a person in real danger. First, it's unlikely that a person would be able to quickly find the sheriff. Second, the phrase "reason to believe" is highly subjective and open to abuse.

In general, even though the bill is allegedly a "shall issue" law (rather than "may issue"), it gives sheriffs virtually unlimited discretion to deny permits. It states: "If the sheriff has a reasonable belief that documented previous behavior by the applicant will present a danger to self or others... the sheriff may deny the permit." The "documentation" is arbitrary, and again the phrase "reasonable belief" is subjective. Given the language, a sheriff could refuse practically anyone a permit. Politics is sure to play in many sheriffs' decisions. In addition, some non-felonies, such as decades-old drunk driving records, disqualify the applicant.

Another problem with the current bill is that it requires sheriffs to register concealed carry permit holders with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and, by extension, the national government. The explicit goal of the anti-gun lobby is to ban all semiautomatics and all handguns.

Several countries have already banned guns, such as England, where gun crime, burglary, and robbery are on the rise. Californians are learning right now that registered guns are at risk of confiscation.

If the bill is passed, it will probably come out looking even worse than it does now, especially with a Democrat-controlled Senate. If Colorado legislators were serious about reducing crime and saving lives, they would pass a real concealed carry law, one that simply repeals existing restrictions and allows lawful citizens to defend themselves and their loved ones.


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