HomeRenters InsuranceColorado House passes three gun bills following late-night debate | Legislature

Colorado House passes three gun bills following late-night debate | Legislature

House Democrats voted to pass three gun bills late on Saturday night, including one that would require gun owners to obtain a liability insurance policy for their firearms.

The bills all drew criticism from Republicans, who claimed they would violate the Second Amendment, while supporters argued they would enhance public safety.

Here’s a brief overview of each bill and some of the debate that took place during the final votes on Saturday.

Bill mandates firearms liability insurance

House Bill 1270 mandates that firearm owners must have liability insurance and requires insurance companies to offer firearm liability coverage in homeowners and renters insurance policies to cover injuries caused by accidental firearm discharge. The bill faces opposition not only from Republicans but also from some Democrats, with 12 of them voting against it, including representatives from rural areas and Colorado Springs.

“I am deeply concerned that this will be used as an advantage to do other insidious things,” said Rep. Ron Weinberg, R-Loveland. “As legislators in this building, there’s one thing we have to do: stop going down rabbit holes. Once we put one thing in order, there’s many to follow. One of the greatest reasons this country exists as it does today is because of law and order and the Second Amendment, and if we start chipping away at any of those with small things such as this, we will find ourselves in a difficult spot.” 

The bill’s supporters argued that it’s no different from requiring liability insurance for other items that have the potential to cause harm, such as swimming pools and trampolines. They contended that insurance coverage would assist in offsetting the substantial medical expenses incurred by victims of accidental or unintentional firearm discharges.

The bill narrowly passed with a 33-29 vote, hinging on last-minute switches by Democratic Reps. Alex Valdez of Denver and Tisha Mauro of Pueblo from “no” to “yes.”

The bill’s future in the Senate is uncertain — it will either be assigned to the Business Affairs and Labor, State Affairs, or Judiciary committees. Democratic Senators Nick Hinrichsen of Denver, Tom Sullivan of Centennial, and Dylan Roberts of Frisco are likely to be the swing votes in each respective committee. 

The bill is sponsored by Reps. Steven Woodrow, D-Denver, Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora, and Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver. 

Measure mandates new dealer requirements 

House Bill 1353 requires firearms dealers in Colorado to obtain a permit, adhere to sales regulations, provide annual employee training and report suspicious activities.

Under the proposal, violations may result in fines up to $250,000 and felony charges.

“Criminals don’t use licensed dealers,” said Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta. “Why? Because licensed dealers will not knowingly sell to a prohibited person. Because licensed dealers do not like criminals. Because licensed dealers are partners with the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) and law enforcement circles.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, argued that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, responsible for enforcing federal firearms licenses, is severely understaffed and argued for the need for state assistance in enforcing regulations to address the staffing shortfall.

The bill passed on a 40-21 vote, with Democrats Sheila Lieder of Littleton and Bob Marshall of Highlands Ranch in opposition, alongside their Republican colleagues. 

The bill is also sponsored by Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, D-Fort Collins, and Sens. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village and Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City.

Legislation proposes new excise tax on guns, ammo  

House Bill 1349 proposes an 11% excise tax on firearms and ammunitions sales, with several exemptions.

Revenue generated from the tax would be allocated to various funds, including support for crime victim services and shooting range safety programs. Because the vote proposes a new tax, it needs to be approved by the voters. If it passes through the legislature, it will appear on the November ballot. 

Opponents of the bill say it places financial barriers on gun ownership, which Rep. Brandi Bradley, R-Littleton, called “the great equalizer” for women. 

“I’m trying to understand why we would take away the greatest equalizer for women,” she said. “Why wouldn’t we give them every opportunity to have a gun and access them without financial restrictions? This bill will disproportionately affect people who cannot afford this extra tax and will not be able to defend themselves, and unfortunately crime and assault will continue to rise.”

Rep. Lisa Frizell, R-Castle Rock, said she supports funding for victims’ assistance programs but she does not believe an excise tax is the way to source that funding. 

“This bill combined with other measures that have passed through this chamber in this session, I believe very strongly, is simply going to reduce the number of guns sold legally in the state of Colorado,” she added. 

The bill passed on a 44-18 vote, with Rep. Bob Marshall of Highlands Ranch being the only Democrat to vote in opposition. It is sponsored in the House by Majority Leader Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, and Rep Meg Froelich, D-Englewood, and in the Senate by Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver and Janet Buckner, D-Aurora. 

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