State & Regional News

Fact Check on Colorado Background Checks - Part 3

Fact Check: Background Checks - Part 3

COLORADO SPRINGS - Four years after the passage of a controversial law requiring background checks on the private sale of firearms, Colorado lawmakers disagree over whether it has made the state safer.

Along with fixing and selling firearms, Henry Valenzano of Colorado Arms Repair also runs backgrounds checks on people involved in the private sale of firearms, but the infrequency of those checks leads him to believe many buyers and sellers are simply skipping the requirement.

"I get probably maybe two to five a month, and I know there's more people buying firearms than that," he says.

The unenforcability of the 2013 law was an argument critics raised from the beginning, and three and a half years after it took effect, just 18 people across Colorado were convicted of violating the statute.

However, hundreds of potential buyers with criminal histories were also denied a gun because of the background check requirement under the law.

"Every single one (illegal gun purchase) that we prevent, we may have prevented injury or death," said former State Representative Beth McCann, who is now the district attorney for Denver.

Former Colorado Springs State Senator John Morse agrees with McCann, believing the law has worked.

Referring to the denials, he said, "The reality is, there are over 1,200 examples that absolutely falsify the folks that think this is a bad law."

Because of his support of the bill in 2013, Morse was recalled by voters and lost his seat in the State Senate and eventually moved his accounting firm to Denver.

However, despite losing his senate majority leader seat, he has no regrets.

"I was more than happy to trade my career to make Colorado a safer place.  Turns out, I was required to make that trade.  I was happy to do have done it.  I'd do it again in a New York second."

But critics say even with hundreds of new background checks, the total still falls far short of what state officials predicted while the law was debated.

"The plan was for 200,000 additional non-gun-show checks per year," explains David Kopel of the Independence Institute. "And I don't think they're even getting five percent of that."

Kopel believes a big reason for the lack of more checks is the fact that only a few people, like Henry Valenzano, are willing to do the checks due to the fact that they are only allowed to collect ten dollars per transaction.

"The vast majority of people in those transactions found the system impossible to comply with because they wrote the law so defectively," said Kopel.

Valenzano suspects private buyers and sellers will simply make their exchange under the table.

"They'll meet in some parking lot or something like that, and they'll just buy the firearms," he said.

Every year since the law passed, Republicans have fought to repeal all the gun laws passed in 2013 and failed, but they're not giving up.

Republican State Senator Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud said, "I look forward to the day when there are enough people in the legislature and in the Governor's office to say yes, we'll fix these problems."

There were a number of state and federal lawsuits filed by various groups over the legislation.

None are active, but Kopel says another federal challenge to the constitutionality of the law is currently in the planning.

If you missed previous parts of the series, click on the following links:

Fact Check:  Background Check - Part 1

Fact Check:  Background Check - Part 2

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