GOP Plays Dirty To Kill Concealed Weapon Background Checks

Concealed handgun.

Concealed handgun.

As the Denver Post's John Frank reports, House Democrats ended a major standoff with Republicans over the issue of funding for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to close a backlog of background checks for concealed weapons permits yesterday, essentially by capitulating to the GOP's curious refusal to increase this funding and thereby accommodate the surging demand for CCW permits in the state:

A Washington-style budget standoff at the state Capitol ended Wednesday as the House conceded to the Senate's position on a $2 million spending bill for the public safety department.

The unanimous vote removed the final hurdle for a measure that includes money for testing evidence in drunken-driving and rape cases but jettisoned a provision allowing the agency to hire more staffers to reduce the wait time for concealed-carry background checks.

The Democratic-controlled House insisted on the $370,000 for background checks, but the Republican-led Senate objected and refused to negotiate on the bill, creating what one lawmaker described as a "high-stakes game of chicken" that drew comparisons to congressional gridlock.

If the House didn't pass the supplemental spending bill, it would have died — a reality House Democrats said was too steep to accept.

Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, speaking to reporters afterward, acknowledged this as a tactical defeat, but defended the decision to fold in the face of determined GOP opposition to the CBI funding request. The Durango Herald's Peter Marcus:

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, said it simply was too important to let the bill die, noting money for the state’s toxicology lab, law-enforcement training and testing for rape kits.

“I call it being the adults in the room,” [Pols emphasis] Hullinghorst said after the vote Wednesday, which passed unanimously. “There was very little alternative.”

As we discussed last month regarding this same controversy, Republican opposition to funding the CBI's request for additional funds to close the concealed-carry background check backlog is not easy to explain at first blush. After all, Republicans are supposed to be the defenders of Coloradans' right to own and carry weapons for self-defense. Why would they not want the CBI to close the backlog of background checks, and get these applicants their permits faster? Wouldn't that be the pro-Second Amendment thing to do?

The answer to this curious question lies in the law–CRS 18-12-206. Which reads:

(1) Within ninety days after the date of receipt of the items specified in section 18-12-205, a sheriff shall:

(a) Approve the permit application and issue the permit; or

(b) Deny the permit application based solely on the ground that the applicant fails to qualify under the criteria listed in section 18-12-203 (1) or that the applicant would be a danger as described in section 18-12-203 (2). If the sheriff denies the permit application, he or she shall notify the applicant in writing, stating the grounds for denial and informing the applicant of the right to seek a second review of the application by the sheriff, to submit additional information for the record, and to seek judicial review pursuant to section 18-12-207.

And here's where it all starts to make an ugly kind of sense:

(2) If the sheriff does not receive the results of the fingerprint checks conducted by the bureau and by the federal bureau of investigation within ninety days after receiving a permit application, the sheriff shall determine whether to grant or deny the permit application without considering the fingerprint check information. [Pols emphasis]

The Republican-controlled Colorado Senate has already passed legislation that would eliminate the background check requirement entirely for carrying concealed weapons. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the legislators they control are all on record in opposition to any additional background checks for CCW permits. That legislation is set to die in the Democratic-controlled House State Affairs committee sometime this month.

But as you can see, Republicans have a backup plan for killing CCW background checks, in the form of starving the CBI of the funds it needs to conduct them in a timely manner. It's not necessary to repeal the law requiring CCW checks, if they can simply push the backlog for their approval beyond the ninety days specified in the law–after which the sheriff approving the CCW permit simply doesn't have to use the information.

This is just another example of Colorado Republicans using the budget process to wield legislative power that they don't otherwise have with only narrow control of a single chamber of the legislature. Much like defunding the driver license program for undocumented immigrants, it results in a situation no one in authority should ever want: a program that remains legal but is in practice not functional. In both cases, this achieves Republican policy goals, but subversively and without regard to the hardship it causes in the meantime.

In this case, the GOP may be going too far. If Democrats can demonstrate to voters that the GOP's true objective here is to get rid of background checks for CCW permits, we think that can be turned into a significant political liability. Because it's not the way the process is supposed to work, and the public won't support the real objective here if it's fully explained to them.

13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. If I were a Democrat in a swing district – or even one playing the outside game in an R district – there are so many ways to play this…

    * Republicans are responsible for delaying your concealed carry permit.
    * Republicans want criminals to have the ability to carry concealed weapons.
    * Republicans are denying law enforcement ready access to the tools they need to ensure your safety.

    With this move, Republicans are not removing concealed carry background checks – they're delaying permits for people who deserve them while at the same time allowing those who shouldn't have a permit a chance to be dangerous in public.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      Dead on, PR. Republicans are trying to achieve the worst possible outcome, and counting on the press being too stupid to report it. Which so far they mostly have been.

      I have yet to see any reporter make the connection between the CBI's backlog and the 90 day limit in the law. It's so obvious and dirty what they're doing. Come on press corps, do your fucking job!

      • ajb says:

        Call me cynical, but here's what you do…

        Find a case where some attractive, young JaneDoe was killed by an abuser with a CCW permit. Re-introduce the legislation as JaneDoe's law. Hold hearings, bring lots of tissues. 

        Today's press doesn't care about preventing deaths, just reporting about the ones that occur, the more slacious the details, the better. All you need is one story that they can get outraged about. 

  2. doremi says:

    Strange and stupid gambit by the Republicans.

    As I see it, this does nothing except evenutally allow criminals and spouse abusers to be able to get a CCW permit.  Presumably, CBI will keep processing the fingerprints, even if it is past the deadline for sheriff issuance. Hence, this could give the sheriffs MORE work (for no compensation) to revoke permits of people who weren't legal to possess firearms in the first place.  (Do any such people apply?  Of course….3800 since the program began).   

    By the way, every month (on average) 95 people who applied for a CCW permit are arrested for subsequent crimes.  35% of those are for prohibiting offenses.  CBI checked with the sheriffs.  Most indicate that when informed of these folks, they revoke the permit…but most DO NOT RETRIEVE IT.

    So.  The R's who foisted this on Colorado are ALL FOR having criminals armed on our streets.

    This provides no cost savings for CCW applicants….under current law, the applicant still has to pay the fee to CBI. 

    I guess the intent of the RMGO is to bolix up the system so as to eventually create pressure for permitless CCW.  But any complaints should be lodged against the R's on JBC (and their backers).


  3. Big Time says:

    CCC – conceal carry for criminals, terrorists, the mentally ill, what-have-you. 

    The gun lobby cares not a wit about public safety or freedom – they only care about $$$$. And they have a bunch of rubes who they snap their fingers at to bark at law makers when it suites their profit motives. 

  4. FrankUnderwood says:

    I assume this means the Dems will cave on funding for the drivers' licensing offices for undocumented immigrants, too.

  5. Zappatero says:

    Where Democrats see good policy, logic, rules to govern the process, Republicans see weakness, openings to manipulate their opponents and every reason to remove barriers any way they see fit. They've learned all the lessons of brinksmanship from their national brethren while Dems have learned very little.

    Listen to some right wing talk radio, Dems, it's all aournd you. And you'll understand the enemy much better.

    • Craig says:

      Couldn't agree more.  If this is the way the Dems are going to play, they might as well back up their bags and go home.  If any of you have the slightest notion that the Dems can win this way, they just start bitching because nothing will get done.  Apparently Dems, now in the total minority in Federal Congress because they wouldn't stand up are finally having some backbone. Dems here need to learn the lesson fast, especially the "well respected" new Speaker.  The reality is that you can only fight the Republicans by fighting them.  You can't capitulate on any issue.  You aren't saving money for rape kits and the like.  You are endangering them because my making your selves weak, you are endangering any influence at all in the legislature.  If you think this is the only thing that Republicans want to cut your are stupid.  They'd just as soon cut rape kits.  Then you'd have an issue.  Frankly, your Joint Budget Committee members should be told to simply demand what they want and Colorado needs or resign.  This would result in what????? A total government shut-down which secretly is what the Republicans want anyway.  And who would win that???? The Dems.  If the Dems in the legislature can't fight, they can't win.  Every fight makes a difference. Every fight is crucial.  When you give up, you give up.  You're not being the "adults in the room."  Your negotiating with terrorists and if there's anything we have learned from ISIS it is that you can't negotiate with terrorists.  Being an "adult" isn't that at all.  What it is is being the victim of a bully and just cowering and being afraid to be bold.  John Kennedy was bold.  He wasn't a coward.  You need to take a hint.  There will be no more "adults" in the room if you don't heed this advice.  Fight like hell on every issue or go home.  You'll lose and then you are no better than "tits on a bull" as my father used to say.  You aren't adults, you are worthless.

  6. poisonvamp says:

    Um, why does CBI need more money? Background checks (according to the state)  are being funded by the fee for background checks everyone pays when buying a gun. Plus there is at least a $100 fee for the permit application, more in some counties. Talk about more government waste.

    • mamajama55 says:

      The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has many more functions than just background checks for concealed carry permits. 

      Want to know if your kid's babysitter or BBF is a child molester? CBI has resources.

      Want sexual assaultt evidence tested?  Cold cases re-opened? Forensics investigated? A clean background check report for employability?  Who ya gonna call….CBI. 

      So the GOP refusal to fund CBI had profound public safety implications.Which is what Pols said in the OP.

    • doremi says:

      Actually, according to Denver Post editorial on 2/20/2015…the $370,000 has already been collected.  CBI just requested that this money be allocated so they could hire more workers to cut down on the wait time.

      Quote from Sen. Michael Johnson 2/5/2015 Bartles' column:

      “As a gun owner, I find this offensive,” Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, said in a news release after the amendment was killed.

      “Taxpayers are paying fees to get a public service. These are funds that have already been collected and are sitting in a bank, and they are intentionally delaying this service. Let’s provide this public service appropriately and efficiently. We shouldn’t make people wait to get a concealed carry permit because of political games.”

      Oh…it is also clear when you see comments of the R's in the above article, that they are definitely confusing regular gun purchase BG checks and the CCW BG checks.  They are two different types of checks.  The CCW one is a fingerprint BG check and is far more extensive, which is why it costs $52.50 for it.  (That's the one that teachers have to pay for to get approved for their licenses."


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