Colorado’s law regarding the prohibition of possessing a firearm if you are a felon had changes made through Senate Bill 271, which had bipartisan support. The 304 page Bill changed in the wake of a mass shooting at a Boulder King Soopers. The bill has been passed banning people convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes from purchasing a firearm for at least five years. House Bill 1298 was presented as a way to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous criminals and people who are generally unstable. The believed King Soopers gunman was convicted of third-degree assault a few years before the mass shooting. Assault is one of the misdemeanors that now has the ability to keep a person from purchasing a firearm. The legislature also loosened prohibition of firearms possessed by felons. These measures are being enacted despite Denver and Aurora having seen record breaking levels of violent crime related to firearms. In 2020, Denver had 95 homicides, 50% more than in 2019 and the highest number in three decades. This year is looking even worse. Aurora saw a more than a 45% jump in firearm-related homicides from 2019 to 2020. 2021 is not on a better pace since there were more non-fatal shootings in Aurora during the first half of 2021 than in 2019.
What changes Will the Legislature Make?
Senate Bill 271 was supposed to reform Colorado’s criminal code related to misdemeanors. Only Felons convicted of a crime that falls under the Victims Rights Act, murder, robbery and felony assault, for instance, are still prohibited from possessing a firearm. This means many dangerous criminals will now be allowed to own firearms legally, including those convicted of drug dealing, organized crime, burglary, arson, car theft, treason, sedition, anarchy, and inciting a riot. Senate Bill 271 raised being a felon in possession of a firearm from a Class 6 felony to a Class 5 felony; The maximum penalty for those who violate the law has increased to three years in prison from 18 months. Offenders may no longer receive probation if they produce a weapon while committing a crime. No matter what felony is committed, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm continues to be illegal under federal law, carrying a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Federal prosecutors often reserve charges for people suspected of many other crimes or who have known gang affiliations. No matter the crime, felons in Colorado could still be potentially kept from purchasing a firearm in stores since they wont pass a federal background check. Will they be able to own a firearm but not purchase one? The Colorado Bureau of Investigation handles background checks for firearms in Colorado. They are trying to determine if the change would actually let people convicted of felonies to purchase a firearm or just simply own one.
Tristan Gorman, legislative policy coordinator for the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, worked on Senate Bill 271. “I think that it’s a statute that has long been in need of reform,” Gorman said, arguing that it’s too broad. The changes are needed for the justice system, but allowing some felons to legally possess a firearm creates conflict in the state’s criminal code. Someone convicted of felony animal abuse is now able to possess a gun under Senate Bill 271, but because of House Bill 1298, someone convicted of misdemeanor animal abuse would not be able to purchase a weapon for five years after their conviction. Organized crime offenders will be allowed to own weapons but someone defending their significant other from an unwanted stranger touching them inappropriately in public will be forced to give up gun ownership for up to five years. While many of the misdemeanor charges do warrant removing the right to own a firearm from a person, the field should be level for all offenders seemingly big or small. House Bill 1298 placed the five-year purchasing restriction on people convicted of the following misdemeanors:
Third-degree assault, Sexual assault, Unlawful sexual contact, Child abuse, Violation of a protection order, A crime against an at-risk person, Harassment, A bias-motivated crime, Possession of an illegal weapon, Unlawfully providing a firearm other than a handgun to a juvenile
Colorado Punishes Law-abiding Gun Owners
House Bill 1298 does not prohibit people from continuing to possess firearms they owned before they were convicted of a misdemeanor that temporarily blocks them from purchasing a gun. Does this mean people would not receive consequences if they have a previously purchased firearm in their possession even though they are banned? It is unclear if Moms Demand Action, Everytown, Giffords and other groups, who are generally leading the changes of laws impacting lawful gun owners, consulted on the bills which will help firearms into the hands of those convicted of dangerous crimes. Colorado placed restrictions on legal firearm owners earlier this year despite the sudden leniency we are all now seeing.
In April, Colorado passed two bills criminalizing not storing firearms properly inside your own home. The punishments include the possibility of jail time. Storing firearms properly is important but so is informing members of your household (you and old) all about firearm safety. The other bill criminalizes victims of burglary and theft who fail to report their firearms were stolen. Once again lawmakers say law-abiding firearm owners cannot be trusted to safely exercise Second Amendment rights. Yet a criminal who has been convicted of multiple serious felonies is told by the same politicians they can be trusted despite the obvious disregard for the laws. Why is this country rewarding the rule breakers? We are giving weapons to dangerous criminals… then what? The leaders sit back bewildered when the snake they let loose inevitably bites them? The leaders of Colorado are setting the state up for disaster. Crime in general will skyrocket and violent crime, even more so. How can we trust our country is a safe place to be when our leaders literally are being enablers to very dangerous people.
Written by: Erinn Malloy