DENVER — After a long, emotional debate, a Democrat-controlled committee voted down a complicated and controversial proposal that would have allowed people to sue businesses that ban firearms and fail to provide armed security guards on-site.
Senate Bill 62, sponsored by Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, divided police chiefs and business owners, nervous about the impact to their bottom line, and gun owners who believe that unsecured “gun-free zones” are easy targets for those looking to carry out mass shootings.
“Terrorists always seem to select the softest targets,” Lambert said at the outset of Wednesday’s hearing.
After an executive from Kronke Sports told lawmakers that the measure would cost the company up to 25 concerts a year at the Pepsi Center because of staffing requirements, Lambert offered to amend the bill to exclude large venues like stadiums and amphitheaters.
But that amendment couldn’t save the bill itself, which was defeated on a party-line 2-3 vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon after more than two hours of public testimony and debate.
Under the bill, businesses with 50 or more employees that didn’t allow concealed weapons on the premises would have to provide armed security guards or accept civil liability for failing to protect its employees and patrons.
Conservative lawmakers on the panel were incensed that the police chiefs of Colorado opposed the bill.
“They believe it creates a legal framework that will encourage the proliferation of guns on private property,” said Annmarie Jensen on behalf of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Businesses would no longer restrict or open- or concealed-carry within their business, which we believe may be the intention of this bill; or, in order to save money, the businesses would hire security personnel that may not have the training one would like them to have,” Jensen continued.
Numerous gun owners and gun rights groups testified that the proliferation of weapons would increase public safety.
“For the first time I can remember, someone under this dome gets it,” said Kirk Fry of Firestone who told lawmakers that he refuses to go anywhere he’s not allowed to carry his concealed weapon, including on airplanes.
Referring to the deadly July 20 shooting at the Aurora Century 16 theater where 12 were killed and 58 others wounded, Fry said, “there should have been 30 to 50 armed citizens in there.”
The vote marked the second time this week that Democrats on a Senate committee killed a GOP proposal dealing with Colorado’s gun laws.
On Monday, a measure to allow teachers and staffers to carry concealed weapons on school campuses was voted down.
Democrats plan to officially introduce their own gun control measures, which will likely include a push for universal background checks, some time next week.