By Hendrik Sybrandy
DENVER -- A bill that would implement universal gun background checks in Colorado cleared an important legislative hurdle on Tuesday.
By a 7-4 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 1229.
The measure would mandate background checks for all gun sales, including those between private parties. Checks are currently required for sales at gun shows and those by licensed dealers.
"This is about saving lives and it's about closing a loophole to prevent those who shouldn't have guns getting access to guns," said Rep. Rhonda Fields, one of the bill sponsors.
Supporters of the bill say 40 percent of current gun sales do not require a background check. They argue that gun crimes have decreased in places where more stringent controls have gone into effect.
"Requiring background checks for gun sales will prevent violent crimes," said David Chipman, a former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agent. "Lives will be saved plain and simple."
Chipman said it took him only 15 minutes on an arms marketplace website to locate the three weapons that were used in the Newtown, Connecticut massacre.
He said those weapons were all available for sale in Denver. But opponents of the bill disputed his claims and said universal checks don't get at the core problem.
"How is this going to keep a criminal from getting a gun because they're not going to go through a background check," asked Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Dist. 39).
Gun rights supporters said the checks would put unnecessary burdens on law-abiding citizens and would chip away at their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
"My fear here is that you may be well-intentioned with this legislation," said Rep. Jared Wright (R-Dist. 54). "However the loophole that exists is in the heart of man and that is a loophole that we're never going to be able as a government body to fill or close."
The proposed legislation, which could cost the state a million dollars or more a year, now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.