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Colorado House passes universal background checks measure

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DENVER — Nine hours into a marathon floor debate on four Democratic gun control measures, the House gave initial approval to the second of those bills, which will mandate background checks on all private gun sales and transfers in the state.

The voice vote, which came around 6 p.m., will be followed by a formal, recorded vote in the House on Monday.

The debate over House Bill 1229, sponsored by Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, took three hours; it followed the morning’s six-hour debate on House Bill 1224, also sponsored by Fields, which seeks to ban magazines of more than 15 rounds.

“This bill will promote public safety and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic violence offenders and those who have been flagged for serious mental illness,” said McCann.

Currently, Colorado law requires background checks on guns bought at retail stores and gun shows, but not those bought online or in person between gun owners.

Republicans, who don’t appear to have the votes to stop any of the Democratic gun measures, still spent hours in the well, arguing against the proposal, which has 80 percent support from Colorado voters according to a recent poll.

GOP lawmakers, whether out of fear of primary challenges or deep personal opposition, argued forcefully that extending background checks unnecessarily burdens law-abiding gun owners.

“The problem with this bill is that it creates a supposition that you are guilty until proven innocent,” said Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen.

As they did in opposition to the high-capacity magazine ban, Republicans argued that the background check law, or any gun control law for Thayer matter, will only be followed by law-abiding citizens.

“That gun sale in the alley between two hoodlums will never make it to the CBI,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. “It comes back again to what do we want to do to law-abiding citizens?

“We cannot keep evil people from doing evil things unless we lock ’em up.”

After the passage of HB 1229, the debate moved to HB 1228, which would force gun buyers to pay a fee to cover the cost of their own background checks.

Democrats are also planning to debate a fourth bill Friday night before adjourning; that’s HB 1226, which would ban concealed weapons on college campuses.