The Colorado Freedom Report

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Guilty Until Proven Innocent:
CBI Background Checks Violate Coloradans' Second Amendment Rights

by Ari Armstrong, December 28, 1999

Everyone knows that totalitarian dictatorships like China and Cuba often treat innocent people as if they were guilty. But that doesn't happen in the United States, right? Wrong!

In Colorado, an honest citizen may be denied permission to purchase a firearm merely because of an arrest record, even if criminal charges were never filed. Then it's up to the person to prove his or her innocence to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, a process which can take days or weeks, before getting permission to purchase a gun.

On December 14, Gregory Golyansky was denied permission to purchase a gun by CBI, even though he has committed no crime. Golyansky didn't even know he had an arrest record. However, in 1994 he used a firearm in self-defense, an incident which left a formal arrest in his files.

On April 7, 1994, Golyansky and his brother were closing up their pawn shop on Colfax avenue in Aurora. Someone driving a Lincoln had blocked the car of Golyansky's brother, who looked around in the surrounding stores to locate the driver. The cars were parked in the pawn shop's private parking lot behind the store.

The driver of the Lincoln became angry with the brothers over their request to move the car, and he pulled a club from the Lincoln and threatened the brothers. Golyansky pulled his pistol and told the man not to come any closer. At that point, the man entered his Lincoln and started to drive away. Golyansky said, "I figured he was done" and would leave without further incident.

However, the driver of the Lincoln pulled around and sped toward the brothers and other observers. Golyansky stepped to the right of the car and fired two bullets at the driver, one of which struck the driver in the chest. The car grazed Golyansky's father, who was taken to the emergency room and released, then crashed into Golyansky's car. By using his firearm in self-defense, Golyansky may have saved his family members and other observers from serious injury or death resulting from the driver's assault.

The police arrived on the scene, confiscated both Golyansky brothers' guns, and asked Golyansky to give a statement at the police station (the one by the Aurora library). Golyansky at the time did not know the incident was formally an arrest. He was never read his rights or placed in handcuffs, though he rode in a police car and was told not to leave town until the matter was resolved. The police expressed their appreciation for Golyansky's full cooperation in the matter.

Over the next several months, the police and the Adams County District Attorney investigated the shooting and cleared Golyansky, ruling he acted in self-defense. No criminal charges were filed. The police gave both guns back to the Golyanskys.

However, when Golyansky applied to purchase a handgun, CBI denied him permission. CBI's records show that Golyansky has an arrest record pertaining to the use of a firearm, even though the records state, "Disposition Unknown," which means that no information of criminal charges is given. Golyansky was denied despite the fact that, as an employee and major stock-holder of the pawn shop, he sells firearms himself and has passed background checks every two years for the last decade associated with the shop's Federal Firearms License.

Of course, Golyansky can appeal the CBI's ruling and prove himself innocent to the agency, a process which can take several weeks. Unfortunately, those in imminent danger of attack and who do not own another firearm may not have such a luxury of time. Many lawful citizens who are wrongfully denied permission to purchase a handgun by the CBI simply give up and relinquish their rights as described by the Second Amendment and the Colorado Constitution.

The irony is that the Golyanskys, a Jewish family, immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union in 1978 to escape the sort of government which can deny honest citizens their rights. Golyansky said, "The lawlessness of a communist regime is quite intolerable for a human being to exist. Also, the Soviet Union was notorious for being an anti-Semitic country. Unfortunately, some of the things I see in America are beginning to remind me of that. Of course it hasn't gotten nearly that bad yet, but why let it continue?" Golyansky became a naturalized citizen in 1985.

The federal government passed the Brady Act in 1993, which requires background checks on all gun purchases from licensed dealers. Colorado legislators provided interim CBI checks from February 1994 through November 30, 1998, the time during which the federal FBI system was being established. On July 1, 1999, Governor Bill Owens reinstated the CBI checks through executive order, which requires each gun purchase to be cleared by both the CBI and the FBI. In the 2000 legislative session, Senator David Owen is expected to offer a bill that would make the duplicative CBI checks permanent.

These days, honest citizens have to ask permission from the government before they can exercise their fundamental, Constitutionally established civil liberties. And sometimes permission is denied.

The Colorado Freedom