Colorado Springs

Fact Check on Colorado Background Checks - Part 1

Fact Checks on 2013 Background Check...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. - A 2013 Colorado law requiring background checks on the private sale of firearms is among the most controversial and hotly contested laws to pass through the legislature in decades.

It mandates checks on the sale of a gun from an individual to another individual outside of a gun store or a gun show, where checks were already required.

HB 13-1299 was prompted by a string of violent shootings in 2012.

In July of that year, 12 people were fatally shot and 70 injured at the Century Theater in Aurora.

Five months later, 20 children and six staff members were shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

A month after the Sandy Hook shooting, Governor John Hickenlooper first introduced the idea of expanding background check requirements.

"Why don't we have universal background checks for all gun sales?" he said in his 2013 State of the State address.

John Morse, a former democratic state senator from Colorado Springs, admits that without the two mass shootings in 2012, the laws had little hope of passing.

"No, I don't think the legislation would have even been introduced," he said.

The sponsor of the bill, Beth McCann, a democrat who recently became the District Attorney for Denver, agrees the shootings were a factor.

"I'm sure it helped prompt immediate action," she said.

Along with other gun control bills, the private sale background check requirement was signed by the governor on March 20.

As a result, anyone looking to purchase a firearm from another individual now has to be checked out by someone who is licensed to perform the checks.

Henry Valenzano of Colorado Arms Repair is among those with a federal firearms license.

He is one a handful of licensees in southern Colorado are private sales background checks, due to the maximum $10 fee that can be charged for the service.

According to Valenzano, most large retail stores won't provide the service, because the amount of time it takes to process all the paperwork is not worth it to them.

"It's not enough to cover your overhead," he said.

Valenzano is willing to perform the checks for $10 because it brings customers in the door.

"I'm a repair shop, and the more people that know about me, the better the chance they come to me when they break their firearm," he said.

Valenzano opposed the bill in 2013, believing criminals can easily find a way to get a gun without a background check, and that hasn't changed.

"I think it's just costing people money and time.  That's all it is," he said.

Evidence of attempts to circumvent the law is easy to find.

While attempting to seek comment from local private sellers advertising their firearms online, one seller told KRDO Newschannel 13 he was willing to ship it to our door even before he was asked the question.

Republican State Senator Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud also fought the bill and agrees that it is often violated.

"In a private sale, you are sorely tempting everybody to ignore the law, which I'm certain occurs," he said.

However, Morse and McCann believe that although it may not stop all illegal gun sales, it was the right thing to do to help reduce gun violence.

"The fact that we can't prevent every illegal sale shouldn't prevent us from trying to prevent the ones we can," said McCann.

Morse adds, "What we did was small and measured and well within the bounds of absolute common sense."

In Part 2 of our series, we will reveal numbers we gathered in our investigation of HB 1299, including the strikingly small number of people prosecuted for breaking that law over the last three and a half year, as well as the number of people denied a gun under the new law.

That will air on February 7 at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. on KRDO NewsChannel 13. 

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