This document contains running commentary about the 2000 Colorado legislative session, in reverse chronological order. Send your comments and updates to firstname.lastname@example.org. The editor retains sole discretion concerning the inclusion and editing of comments. The opinions of one contributor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person. Commentary is by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
Background Checks at Gun Shows
The main-stream media spin on the passage of Ken Gordon's HB-1242 Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee is that Robyn Anderson's testimony turned the tide in favor of the bill. But according to RMGO's Dudley Brown, the die was cast before hearings even began. 1242 would require honest-citizen background checks for all gun show purchases.
Republican House Speaker Russell George gave the bill its first boost when he assigned it to the Judiciary Committee rather than to the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. George has discretion on where to send bills, and he knew before-hand that 1242 would more likely pass out of Judiciary. Of course, Governor "Gun Control" Owens has been pressuring legislators to pass his anti-gun-owner agenda.
In the Judiciary Committee, Republicans Bill Kaufman and Marcy Morrison supported the background check legislation. According to Brown, House Majority Leader Doug Dean refused a late substitute bill to serve as a watered-down Republican version of Gordon's bill. So Kaufman, the Committee Chairman with an NRA "A+" rating, cut a deal to amend Gordon's bill to make it slightly less onerous. Kaufman and Morrison conspired with Democrats to pass the compromise bill.
Columbine Girl Supports Right to Bear Arms
Rachel Ebert, a survivor of the Columbine violence, testified on behalf of the rights of gun owners Thursday (January 27) in front of the House Judiciary Committee. She said, "All you need is a little common sense to see that existing gun laws are ineffective and more gun laws would also be ineffective" (Rocky Mountain News January 28).
Ebert is as well-intentioned as she is naive: since when has "common sense" played a role in politics? Bless her heart for trying.
Post Issues Ridiculous Editorial
So what else is new? The Denver Post editorial writers printed January 28:
Not only has [Robyn] Anderson come forward to assure us that if she had had been required to give her name for an FBI background check, she wouldn't have bought the guns, but Eric Harris also said it himself from the grave. In the Columbine video tapes that Harris and Klebold made about their plans prior to the shootings, Harris said that if his father would have asked more questions when a gun shop called to say ammunition had arrived, the whole killing spree would have been canceled.
Eh? Harris said that if his father would have caught him loading up on guns, ammunition, and bombs, his father would have busted him big time and put an end to the affair. But what the hell does this have to do with background checks? The Post's editorialists are so bigoted against gun owners they can't even lay out a coherent argument on the subject.
The Post editorialists fail to mention:
The Post asks, "The whole world is watching us. What more do we need?" What we need is the courage to stand up for freedom and the Bill of Rights and tell the gun-grabbers their policies lead to more death and less liberty.
RMGO Members Called "Extremists"
The News characterized RMGO members as "gun rights extremists" January 27 (page 20A). Lynn Bartels' article referred to the boxes of postcards RMGO members have sent to legislators urging them to protect the right to bear arms.
That title alone is not likely to bother many RMGO supporters. To paraphrase Goldwater, extremism in defense of liberty is a virtue. RMGO members on the whole want an extreme amount of freedom, an extreme level of protection for the Bill of Rights, and an extreme amount of justice in American society.
The problem is, Bartels runs together the information about RMGO members with the story of a threatening e-mail sent to a legislator. RMGO has never advocated anything other than peaceable political activity. By conflating RMGO's actions with those of a threatening author of a possibly illegal message, Bartels misleads those readers who lack inside information.
10 Commandments On Hold
Senator John Andrews is pushing a bill (114) that would require government schools to post the 10 Commandments on their walls. The vote was postponed Thursday till next week. Andrews' idea is excellent -- for private religious schools. The rest of us would prefer to maintain that line between church and state, thank you. Andrews has previously supported a sound policy which would grant religious freedom and remove political influence from education: the separation of school and state.
Latest on Gun Bills
It was a sad day in the House Judiciary Committee today. As of latest word, the following bills have passed: HB-1214, the Republican "Straw Purchase" bill, and HB-1272, which would violate the right to bear arms of adults ages 18-20 at gun shows. HB-1243, the parental consent bill, also passed. Ken Gordon's 1242, which would expand honest-citizen background checks at gun shows, was under debate until late in the evening.
For news about gun legislation, see the RMGO updates, along with new articles in CFR: Republican Senators Pass Unconstitutional CBI Checks and Robyn Anderson "Well-Rehearsed and Manipulated."
Driving While Chatting
Anything the government owns, the government will regulate. To end government regulation of the transportation industry, that industry will have to be entirely privatized.
Thus, there is no deep principled argument to be made against the state outlawing the use of cell phones while driving on government roads. There is a common-sense argument, however. Driving recklessly is already against the law. Reckless cell phone use is not exempted -- there is no need for a special law. Should we have distinct laws for driving while kissing, driving while eating, driving while listening to music, and so forth?
There's a big difference between someone looking up numbers in the phone book while driving and someone making a quick call home to let the husband know to put on dinner. A state law would ban responsible uses of cell phones along with irresponsible uses. In addition, insurance companies are perfectly capable of reflecting the risks of cell phone use in insurance premiums, which is a better solution than a one-size-fits-all law.
Gun Legislation -- Details from January 24 and 25
For a detailed survey on SB-125, see Republican Senators Give Criminals 72 Hours to Stalk Victims.
On Monday, Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Dottie Wham voted against Rob Hernandez' bill that would have expanded honest-citizen background checks to all gun transactions and disarmed lawful adults ages 18-20. That's about all Wham has done right. She voted for Pat Pascoe's SB-166 with the three Democrats on the committee, tabling the measure on a 4-4 tie. 166 would have prohibited lawful adults ages 18-21 for possessing handguns and certain rifles and it would have required gun owners to lock away their means of self-defense in the home.
On Tuesday, Wham voted against Senator Ron Teck's SB-010, which would prevent politicized law suits against gun and ammunition manufacturers. The bill failed to pass, again on a 4-4 vote. The House version of the bill, Lauri Clapp's HB-1208, passed the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee the same day. If Senate President Ray Powers chooses to assign the House bill to Senate Judiciary (assuming it passes out of the full House), the bill will likely suffer the same fate as 10.
SB-152 also went down to a 4-4 vote, but this isn't so big a deal. The bill would have standardized some of the concealed carry laws throughout the state, but it wouldn't have created a "shall issue" law, and it would have required fingerprinting and government lists of carriers. There's not a great advantage of this law over the current system of sheriff discretion.
Unfortunately, SB-154 wasn't even heard. Mary Anne Tebedo's bill would enable people to carry guns in their cars without violating the concealed carry laws. It would change "affirmative defenses" of concealed carry violations to "exceptions," which puts the onus of proof on the government for certain alleged violations. The speculations are that Tebedo knew she didn't have the votes to pass her measure.
Lynn Hefley's HB-1289 passed the House's State Affairs Committee as well. It would prevent localities from violating the Constitutional rights of citizens to keep and bear arms for self-defense. Those who oppose Hefley's bill claim it would permit people from shooting guns in the parks and in their yards, but this charge is ridiculous. Reckless endangerment is and has always been against the law.
Two terrible pieces of legislation died in the House committee Tuesday: 1220 and 1245. 1245 is the bill that would have created "school massacre zones" by preventing lawful adults from carrying concealed handguns onto school property. 1220 would have violated the rights of lawful adults ages 18-20 to purchase certain guns at shows.
The next big battle takes place tomorrow. A number of bills relating to guns hit the House Judiciary Committee, including 1242, which would expand honest-citizen background checks to gun shows, and 1214, which, as written would make it illegal for a parent to purchase a gun as a gift for his or her children. Representative Doug Dean has promised to amend this bill, but hopefully he will kill it altogether.
For more information about gun legislation, see the RMGO update, which was posted early on January 26.
News Skips a Beat
I wrote the following letter to the News today:
Dear Rocky Mountain News Staff,
As indicated in a previous letter, I believe your paper does a pretty fair job covering firearms issues. However, I'm disappointed with your coverage today.
Lynn Bartels' article carries the headline, "Gun control foes win crucial vote." It's inappropriate to define any group in terms of a negative. For instance, the sides of the abortion debate are "pro-life" and "pro-choice," not "pro-life / anti-life" or "pro-choice / anti-choice." Similarly, you should describe my side in terms of what we support. A good alternate headline would have been, "Gun-rights advocates win crucial vote," or "Self-defense supporters win crucial vote." The same goes for Bartels' lead sentence.
The sub-head of Bartels' piece reads, "Proposal viewed as threat to local ordinances prohibiting firearms at sports events." However, sporting events are only one concern. More important are the civil rights of self-defense.
Carla Crowder, who did the best job in the state of covering the FREE/SAFE meetings, unfortunately injected a bit of editorializing in her story today. She writes, "Throughout Colorado, municipalities use local ordinances to address gun issues specific to their needs." That's written as a point of fact, even though it is just an opinion. Another opinion is, "Throughout Colorado, municipalities use local ordinances to violate the Constitutional liberties of honest citizens and increase victimization at the hands of criminals." The letter you ran yesterday from the woman who was robbed in D.C. supports this point.
All I ask for is objectivity in your news stories. If you want to editorialize, you have a separate page for that. Thank you for the generally good job you're doing.
Your loyal reader,
Legislative Journals Incomplete
I was under the impression that the legislative journals posted on the internet included the day's activities of the committees and the general assembly. I assumed wrong. It turns out that actions may be recorded on subsequent days. Thus, it's nearly impossible for the layperson to figure out what the legislature is doing on any given day. And that's too bad. At least the information is available at all, I suppose. Please note that this may affect the timeline of information contained throughout this page. If I write "today," that usually indicates the date the action was recorded in the journals, not necessarily the date the votes were actually taken.
The other major problem with getting information from the legislative web pages is that bills list only the original versions, not subsequent amendments, which are again spread throughout the journals. So don't assume a bill as it appears in original form represents the language of the bill as passed out of committee or on the floor.
Legislature Kills Disarmament Bills
Advocates of civil gun rights won a major victory today in Colorado. Legislative committees defeated two of the most egregious disarmament laws of the 2000 session. One bill would have prevented lawful adults ages 18-20 from exercising their Second Amendment rights at gun shows. The other would have created "school massacre zones" by stopping lawful citizens from carrying concealed guns on school property. The only serious defense against violent criminals at schools is the presence of a responsibly armed adult. A bill limiting politicized law suits against gun and ammunition makers was also passed.
More details will be provided as they come in. To date, only one anti-gun-owner law has passed committee, SB-125, which would compel the CBI to conduct background checks for gun purchases on top of the checks already run by the FBI. The bill would also add juvenile records, further corrupting a system which has denied hundreds of lawful Coloradans their Constitutional rights since August. The names of the four Republican Senators who voted for the bill will be released when available, along with other Republicans who vote to diminish the right of self-defense of citizens of Colorado.
The Magic Button
Few can listen to Tom Mauser speak without fighting back tears. Mauser, who is featured on the cover of today's Rocky Mountain News, lost a son at Columbine at the hands of two deranged killers. He is now a leader of S.A.F.E., which stands for "Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic." Even though the group's name likens gun ownership to a disease, its leaders such as Mauser claim to support only "reasonable," incremental restrictions on the right of self-defense.
We all wish there were some magic button to push that would bring back Mauser's son and stop deranged criminals from killing innocent people. But there's no such button. Reactionary gun laws which weaken the civil rights of self-defense will only result in more innocent deaths. If disarmament laws worked, Harris and Klebold would never have walked into Columbine in the first place.
Many victims of the Columbine murders realize that safe societies cannot be achieved by more government intervention which disarms honest people. Instead, safer neighborhoods come with responsible self-defense, parental responsibility, and sound school policies. Darrell Scott, father of a girl killed at Columbine, told a Congressional committee that gun control is not the answer to violence. He said, "[W]hen something as terrible as Columbine's tragedy occurs, politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that continue to erode away our personal and private liberties."
The disarmament lobby believes that personal liberty must be sacrificed for the cause of safety. But that lobby has it exactly backwards: civil liberties are the only safeguard against violence and hatred. We can weep with Mauser even as we encourage him to support policies which will actually achieve safety, rather than disarmament laws which promise the protection of Big Brother but cause only more suffering.
Smoke, Mirrors, and School Security
Today the Senate passed bill 039, which aims to provide government schools with more money for security measures. Unfortunately, high-tech toys like surveillance cameras and emergency phones won't stop school violence. Harris and Klebold didn't pause simply because they were being videotaped. The tape only added to the pair's infamy. And what good will emergency phones do? The police were notified immediately of the Columbine attack, yet they were impotent to stop the killings.
I recently visited a private Denver school, where I had to sign a list at the front desk and wear a special badge. Yea, that's going to stop a criminal shooting. ("Excuse me sir, you're not wearing your badge!")
When parents and school administrators take more care to spot troubled children before the fact, that's bound to reduce youth violence. At the point of the crime, however, there's only one effective way to stop the violence, and that is to have a responsible, armed adult on the premises. Of course, a single out-of-practice armed guard on his coffee break isn't going to do much good. If school administrators really wanted to reduce school violence, they'd encourage qualified, experienced teachers to carry concealed handguns. But of course that's not PC. All this handwringing, extra paperwork, and new gadgetry can only offer a false sense of security.