A bill making its way through the state Senate would eliminate the requirement for concealed carry permits for gun owners.
Senate Bill 16-017 is sponsored by state Sen. Tim Neville — a Republican from south Jefferson County who recently announced a bid for the U.S. Senate — and his son, state Rep. Patrick Neville, a Castle Rock Republican. The measure would allow a person who legally possesses a handgun under state and federal law to carry a concealed handgun in Colorado without applying for additional permits.
If the bill were to pass both chambers and be signed into law, a person who carries a concealed handgun would have the same carrying rights and be subject to the same limitations that apply to a person who holds a permit to carry a concealed handgun under current law. That includes the prohibition on the carrying of a concealed handgun on the grounds of public schools.
“This is an ability for people to defend themselves without paying a tax,” said Tim Neville of his bill, which has been referred to as "constitutional carry."
“No other constitutional right requires a fee to practice," he said. "There is no fee for free speech and there shouldn't be for the Second Amendment.”
The bill passed a Senate committee 3-2 on Jan. 27. The Senate Finance Committee heard the bill Feb. 2 and it again passed with a 3-2 vote.
Next stop for the bill in the Republican-controlled Senate is the Appropriations Committee. If the bill were to pass the full Senate, it faces a tough audience in the Democrat-controlled House.
Democrats in the Senate have spoken out against the measure.
“Our permitting system for concealed weapons carry enhances responsibility by making sure applicants demonstrate the ability to safely use a gun before they are allowed to conceal it from plain view,” said Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster. “It also ensures greater safety by making sure the applicant is not a known threat to society.”
Ulibarri believes that if this bill passes, it could put residents in danger. Provisions that the bill would eliminate include: background checks and fingerprint verification, the requirement to demonstrate competence with using a handgun, and the ability for Colorado sheriffs to deny or revoke permit applicants when an applicant has a protection or restraining order against him or her at the time of application.
As of last November, eight states have "constitutional carry": Vermont, Montana, Alaska, Texas, Arizona, Wyoming, Arkansas and Kansas. Vermont has had "constitutional carry" since 1791, and Kansas was the most recent state to pass the law.
Colorado is among 23 states where legislators have introduced or are planning to introduce "constitutional carry" bills.
“I'm not sure if it makes (society) safer, but I would believe that a bill like this makes society freer,” Neville said, adding that three of the states that already have "constitutional carry" border Colorado. “Currently we have the ability to open carry in the state, and it seems a little ridiculous that if someone puts a coat on, they become a criminal.”
State Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, who was involved in the original drafting of Colorado's concealed carry statute, said the passing of the bill would make Coloradans less safe.
“Our current system of concealed carry permits has already enabled thousands of law-abiding, responsible gun owners to obtain their concealed carry permits,” Merrifield said in a news release. “This bill would eliminate those common-sense measures, and create a loophole to allow dangerous and/or untrained individuals to carry concealed, loaded weapons in public. I'm disappointed my Republican colleagues voted against the will of the majority of Coloradans by supporting this out-of-touch bill.”