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Colorado Lax Gun Laws Bound To Become Political Issue

Columbine High School, site of 1999 shootings.

Gun Laws – Just 30 minutes away from the Aurora movie theater massacre scene is Columbine High School, where two students shot and killed a dozen classmates and a teacher in 1999.

The latest shootings will almost certainly become political fodder and lead to efforts to tighten gun laws. The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence issued a statement that laid the blame on lax gun laws: “The horrendous shooting in Aurora, Colo., is yet another tragic reminder that we have a national problem of easy availability of guns in this country.”

In the years since the Columbine tragedy, the state’s lawmakers and voters passed some gun restrictions, including requirements governing the sale of firearms at gun shows, a law regulating people’s ability to carry concealed weapons and legislation banning “straw purchases” of weapons for people who would not qualify to buy them legitimately.

That did not stop James Holmes, 24, from purchasing an assault rifle, shotgun and handgun he allegedly used in killing 12 people and injuring 59 at a crowded movie theater.

“The guy basically had normal guns,” said Eugene Volokh, an expert in constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the New York Times. Unless some new evidence of documented psychiatric disturbance emerges, Volokh added, “There’s no indication that, from his record, he is someone whom more restrictive screening procedures would have caught.”

Despite the changes over the past 13 years, Colorado law still prohibits local governments from restricting gun rights in several significant ways. Moreover, gun rights organizations have successfully fought other efforts to restrict access to guns, including blocking a University of Colorado rule prohibiting concealed weapons on campus.

People in Colorado are allowed to carry firearms in their vehicles, loaded or unloaded, as long as the gun is intended for lawful uses like personal protection or protecting property.

Carrying a concealed weapon requires a permit, but Colorado is among those states whose rules on permits are relatively lax, said Heather Morton of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Other states have a tougher “may issue” law, which gives discretion to withhold a permit to an authority like the local sheriff or department of public safety.

Getting a concealed weapon permit in Denver is a relatively straightforward affair, according to information on the Denver Police Department website. Information forms and the application are available online; the process costs $152.50.

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