Senate GOP Plays Budget Games…With Concealed Weapons?

Concealed handgun.

Concealed handgun.

The Denver Post's John Frank reports on an escalating budget battle in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate revealing some very interesting ulterior motives:

In what critics call a "high-stakes game of chicken," Republican lawmakers Wednesday rejected a spending bill that included money to reduce wait times for background checks for concealed-handgun permits — a move that also threatens funds for child abuse cases and testing evidence collected in rape and drunken-driving investigations.

The party-line Senate vote against a bill that won unanimous approval in the House puts in jeopardy more than $2 million for the Colorado Department of Public Safety and escalates a political tension at the General Assembly that is drawing comparisons to a gridlocked Washington.

"It amounts to government shutdown of one department on things that are very critical to public safety," said Senate Democratic leader Morgan Carroll of Aurora, referring to the Senate vote that may kill the bill.

Tensions have been escalated over normally routine appropriations bills this year after Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee led by Sen. Kent Lambert used the committee's power to cut off funding for a program to license undocumented drivers. As we discussed a few weeks ago, using the JBC to curtail funding for a program that isn't repealed legislatively results in major problems, and is considered an abuse of of the JBC's power. In the case of the driver license program, it means month-long delays for appointments will now stretch into next year, and only a single driver license office in Denver will be able to handle these applications–resulting in a more or less nonfunctional program that nonetheless remains on the books.

Of course, Republicans are fine with the driver license program for undocumented immigrants not working.

And that's the point to keep in mind as the Post's John Frank continues:

The public safety spending dispute focuses on an amendment that House Democrats added to the bill giving Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration the authority to spend $370,000 to hire eight technicians to reduce the wait time for concealed-carry background checks.

The provision is tucked into a larger spending bill that includes $300,000 for the state's toxicology lab, $100,000 for child abuse investigations and $20,000 for law enforcement training on cold-case homicides and missing-persons cases, lawmakers said.

Republican lawmakers oppose the required background checks [Pols emphasis] and don't believe the estimates from Hickenlooper's administration about a backlog.

This morning, Senate Republicans gave final passage to a bill that would eliminate background checks and gun safety training required to obtain a concealed weapons permit in Colorado. A total of five states have eliminated permit requirements for concealed weapons, and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-controlled Colorado Senate wants Colorado to be the sixth. The bill has basically zero chance of passing the Democratic-controlled House, however, let alone being signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper. With legislation to repeal the gun safety bills passed in 2013 already headed for defeat, the idea that a bill to dramatically weaken gun laws could pass is simply not realistic.

So what's the next best option? Starve the Colorado Bureau of Investigations of funds to do the job! It's true that this will inconvenience the very same gun owners Republicans say they're looking out for, but who do you think they're going to blame? Certainly not Republicans.

The bigger problem is that by rejecting this spending bill, Republicans are playing games with the entire state Department of Public Safety. Much like the way budget games are played in Washington D.C. these days, large priorities are being held hostage to satisfy niche interests: in his case, the most extreme wing of the gun lobby. Ultimately, a concealed weapons permitting process that bogs down due to insufficient resources plays into the gun lobby's argument that permits should be eliminated–making it a worthwhile long-term goal to counterintuitively stand against properly funding CCW permits today.

It seems like this whole strategy depends on the press not reporting the details of what's happening here, which unfortunatety for Senate Republicans, John Frank has done admirably in this front-page story. We believe it's very unlikely that the voting public will look kindly on Republicans risking funding for things like child abuse investigations in order to strike a blow, however circuitous, against concealed weapons permits.

Which means that as long as the lights stay on and Democrats stand firm, this isn't going to end well for the Senate GOP.

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24 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. FrankUnderwood says:

    Great photo to run, Pols! Now you’re going to get the ammosexuals all aroused.

  2. davebarnes says:

    Let's reduce the number of guns that are "out and about" in our travels to work and stores.

    How do we do that?
    Eliminate concealed carry and only allow open carry (no license needed).

    • BlueCat says:

      I've always thought cards on the table open carry makes more sense. How is carrying a gun a deterrent if nobody knows you have one?

      • FrankUnderwood says:

        agreed……I never understood the point of CONCEALED carry……

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        Exactly. And, anyway, it's not like that salt-of-the earth, second-amendment-exercising, fashion-forward gun lover that JeffCoBlue posted above has all that many options for concealed carry???

        You can't expect all of Dudley's kith and kin to keep their shootin' tools under wraps all the time . . .

        (ps.  Ain't Facebook awesome?!?)

      • Progressicat says:

        There's an idea that open carry makes you a target for any bad guy.  Shoot the guy with the gun first so that he doesn't cause any problems.  I'm not sure that's true, but I think it's one of the reasons that all the cops I know carry concealed when off duty.  For folks I know who carry concealed, it's also about not causing folks in public places to freak out.  A lot of folks aren't comfortable with random Joe carrying a pistol around their kids.

        • BlueCat says:

          I say, let's all know who's carrying. If you think it makes you a target don't carry. I'd also like to see stats on how many mass killings, such as the Aurora theater, Sandy Hook, various mall and college shootings, were stopped by a civilian good guy on the scene with a gun. 

      • notaskinnycook says:

        I'm with you, B.C. and davebarnes.

      • mamajama55 says:

        The fantasy is that concealed carriers are ready to defend against the bad guys, who are not expecting the good guys to be armed. That's the fantasy.

        The reality is that in states which allow unpermitted concealed carry, deaths and injuries from guns are much more frequent, and tend not to be self-defense. 

        • Diogenesdemar says:

          Believe it or not, there's an even a worse reality — the myth that holders of concelaed carry permits are always upstanding law abiding citizens who go through a rigorous background check and have received some modicum of training:

          "In some states, you can be pretty certain that anyone with the legal right to carry a concealed weapon has been checked out carefully. In others, not so much. In 2007, The Sun Sentinel in Florida found that in a six-month period, more than 1,400 people who had pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies had been awarded concealed carry permits, along with 216 people with outstanding warrants, 28 people with active domestic violence injunctions against them, and six registered sex offenders."

          http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/opinion/gail-collins-a-gun-on-every-corner.html

  3. Davie says:

    It seems that the GOP leadership's new attitude is: "What's the point of having power if you can't abuse it?"

    Just hope it won't be 4 years before their 1 seat majority goes "poof"!

  4. JeffcoDemo says:

    So take away the techs who would hasten the process and what happens, concealed permit applications take forever and those who want one get pissed and start voting R as the Dems lose their stranglehold on concealed weapon carry folk?

    What was the downside again?

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