2024 Leg Session, Ari Armstrong, Exclusives, Local Gun Rights, Right To Arms, Uncategorized

Armstrong: Colorado Democrats wage war on peaceable gun owners

It seems like just yesterday that Colorado leftists wanted to “defund the police.” Now Democrats in the legislature want to create a special unit within the Colorado Bureau of Investigation largely to target gun owners over paperwork and technical violations (or alleged violations) of arbitrary laws.

Part of the bill in question, Senate Bill 3, probably makes sense, insofar as it asks the CBI to investigate “egregious attempts to purchase firearms by previously convicted felons who are identified through the Instacheck unit denial process.” Given that CBI is charged with running the Instacheck system, it seems like CBI should take lead on investigating illegitimate purchases. However, far and away the larger problem is criminals buying guns on the black market. Usually, the Instacheck system catches people who didn’t know they couldn’t buy a gun, not people with serious criminal intent.

The state gun police

The broader aim of the bill is to usurp local control of police forces and create a “statewide police force,” as Senator Bob Gardner calls it (as paraphrased by Marianne Goodland). And the focus of this statewide force is not to curb violent crime but rather to enforce technical violations of gun laws.

The bill (as amended) gives CBI broad authority “to investigate throughout the state criminal activity involving firearms described in Article 12 of Title 18.” That is a very broad article encompassing “unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon,” “private firearms transfers,” “failure to report a lost or stolen firearm,” “secure firearm storage,” prohibition of “large-capacity magazines,” and more. The bill requires CBI to communicate with local law enforcement, but, notably, not to coordinate with local law enforcement.

As Goodland’s article makes clear, the bill is largely driven by Democrats angry that some localities prioritize violent crimes over enforcement of magazine restrictions. That’s a concern voiced by Senator Nick Hinrichsen, who says he just wants to enforce the laws on the books. But the aim of law enforcement should be to protect the rights and safety of the citizens of Colorado. This bill instead diverts scarce resources to the enforcement of technical and paperwork violations when the perpetrator has no intent to harm others.

As should be obvious to anyone with any sense of history, giving that sort of awesome power to a state agency creates the potential for abuse. It was a little over a century ago that the governor’s office was controlled by the Ku Klux Klan. We live in an era in which Democrats and others worry that Donald Trump as president could use the power of the federal government to harass his political enemies.

And yet Colorado Democrats want to give the CBI the power to, for example, ring your doorbell if they get an anonymous tip that you’ve stored your guns incorrectly. This bill is practically begging for politically and even racially motivated investigations. I’m not saying that will happen; I’m saying it could happen. And that is cause enough for concern.

Stupid is as stupid does

You’ll never guess which section of the Colorado statutes is modified by House Bill 1348 concerning the storage of a firearm in a vehicle. Yep: It’s Article 12 of Title 18, the very section that Senate Bill 3 would give the CBI primary authority to enforce.

The drafting of this bill is exceedingly stupid, and that’s really saying something given what this legislature comes up with. The bill requires (with some exceptions) that a gun that is stored in a vehicle be placed in a “locked hard-sided container.” Notably, this container does not have to be attached to the car, meaning it is precisely as difficult to steal as a gun outside of a container. A person has to use a locked box even if the gun is already in a highly secure locked trunk.

The bill explicitly states, “For the purposes of this subsection, . . . a glove compartment or the center console of a vehicle is not a locked hard-sided container.” You may have noticed that many glove compartments do lock. And you may have noticed that its sides are hard. And yet, according to this genuinely idiotic bill, a locked glove box with hard sides is “not a locked hard-sided container.” Instead, the bill requires a person to remove a gun from a secure, locked glove box and place it in a less-secure locked box that, at least in some contexts, can be more easily stolen.

Harassment of licensed concealed carriers

Now consider how HB 1348 interacts with Senate Bill 131, which would prohibit the licensed carry of a concealed handgun in various “sensitive spaces,” including parks, recreation facilities, any permitted assembly or special event, any medical facility, and so on. In other words, the legislature wants licensed carriers of concealed handguns to frequently take the gun off of their person, where it is at almost no risk of theft, and place it in a vehicle (but not in a locked glove box!), where it is at higher risk of theft.

Beyond that, we can ask, what problem is SB 131 trying to solve? Are the headlines awash with stories of licensed concealed carriers abusing their guns in hospitals and the like? Of course not. People who sign up to become licensed to carry a concealed handgun, a process which involves an extensive background check, are among the most law-abiding people in the world.

Meanwhile, this bill does absolutely nothing to keep real criminals, often with black-market guns, out of “sensitive areas.” It merely assures that, if someone with criminal intent brings a gun into a sensitive area, the criminal will be less likely to confront someone able to stop him.

The Supreme Court has made clear that it intends to keep alive the Second Amendment, so Colorado Democrats know they can do only so much to restrict peaceable gun ownership. Their aim seems to be instead to harass gun owners until they give up their guns or move out of state.

Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.


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