2024 Leg Session, Civil Liberties, Columnists, Jon Caldara, Local Gun Rights, Right To Arms

Caldara: Colorado gun control bills aimed at racial minorities

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

Any regular reader of this column knows its recurring theme of the immorality of political majorities abusing political minorities. But now, the Colorado legislature is stepping it up to openly target racial minorities.

They are taking action to keep Black and Brown people from owning firearms, you know, like Whites.

The legislature is making clear that Black and Brown people, since they are statistically poorer, shouldn’t own firearms, or at least should face a substantially higher hurdle to exercise this right.

Despite whatever flowery words they use to describe it, their actions assert White upper-class citizens can be trusted with guns, poorer minorities cannot. As if putting firearms out of their reach makes the state safer.

The first gun control laws in the nation were likewise designed specifically to disarm Black freed slaves and other low-income people in the South by taxing them out of reach.

Colorado legislators believe those laws made for a better, safer America.

In a revival of antebellum policy, legislators are now cleverly working toward disempowering such people in Colorado.

House Bill 1349 would place an 11% sin tax on firearm and ammunition purchases. Certainly, this burdens all people who wish to defend themselves in a state with skyrocketing crime. But some will be able to handle this cost increase better than others.

Sure, minorities will argue they live in more dangerous areas and therefore need access to self-defense even more than those in safer, more affluent White areas. But the legislature is saying out loud what racists think — that they know why those urban areas are more dangerous. Certain types of people who live there can afford guns. Once they can’t, crime will plummet.

Requiring already federally licensed gun stores to get a duplicative, unnecessary, and expensive state license will add even more to the cost of gun purchases. House Bill 1353 does just this.

And while the Second Amendment guarantees a right to keep and bear arms, House Bill 1270 mandates costly liability insurance to own a gun. People who can barely afford car insurance fortunately won’t be able to afford this.

Anything that adds to the cost of firearms prices the lower echelons out of the so-called “self-defense” market. And that’s the goal.

Many in the minority community have an uneasy relationship with law enforcement. So, the legislature will give police more oversight over them. House Bill 66 tracks and monitors gun sales by forcing private credit/debit card companies to follow such transactions, making these people easier to identify and profile.

Likewise, lawmakers believe it’s important cops have more ability to defend themselves than African Americans and Hispanics. House Bill 1292 bans citizens from so-called “assault weapons,” the very rifles police have with them in Black and Brown communities for their protection. This makes clear that a policeman’s life is more precious than any minority’s life in the eyes of the Legislature.

Certainly, the statistics on the 15% of Colorado adults who have concealed carry permits make clear these are the very safest and most responsible gun owners in the state. But that doesn’t stop lawmakers from attempting to price permits out of the pocketbooks of Black and Latino people.

House Bill 1174 requires expensive extra training for concealed carry permit holders. Again, while absolutely no evidence exists that the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people with permits have been irresponsible, this only jacks up the price of legally defending oneself.

Black and Brown people who can’t afford the time or money for more training may choose to carry without a permit, providing law enforcement more charges during police stops and thus more jail time.

The legislature seems to think the more people of color in jail for nonviolent offenses, the safer the rest of us will be.

And what if people of color can afford the much more expensive gun and the much more expensive training? Lawmakers don’t want them defending themselves in dangerous neighborhoods.

Senate Bill 131 makes concealed carry permits virtually useless by labeling many urban areas as “sensitive spaces” where carrying a gun even with a permit is banned.

It’s fine rhetoric that poorer minorities have the same rights as more affluent White people. But clearly that’s not what the legislature intends.

Clever lawmakers write laws that on their face treat people the same, but in fact creates systemic racism.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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