Republican State Chair Bob Beauprez supports the initiative to expand background registration checks at gun shows, but he was unable to cite any evidence suggesting such legislation will make society safer. "I'm not interested in debating it," he said.
The initiative is sponsored by the gun restriction lobby Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease. Beauprez joins fellow Republican Governor Bill Owens in supporting and signing the petition. Civil arms groups have dubbed Owens "Governor Gun Control."
"If we can keep one Willie Horton from getting a gun without infringing the rights of the law-abiding unduly then we ought to do it," Beauprez stated. However, when pressed, the Republican Chairman was unable to offer evidence that the SAFE initiative will restrict crime without disarming law-abiding citizens and leaving them more prone to criminal attack.
Beauprez noted he is a husband and father and he wants laws that protect his family. I replied, "Your position is peculiar, since the Brady background check law is actually linked to an increase of rape and aggravated assault by 4%, as noted on page 162 of John Lott's book, More Guns, Less Crime. There's no evidence that state background checks have decreased crime."
Hoping Beauprez would change his mind and discuss the significance of the initiative, I persisted, "Can you point to any evidence that the SAFE proposal will have the effects you suggest?"
"No," said Beauprez.
"Then on what evidence do you base your support of the proposal?"
"Based on the evidence in my own head," said Beauprez.
"But what's only in your own head doesn't count as 'evidence' so far as the rules of rational debate are concerned," I noted.
At that point, Beauprez commented that he wasn't happy with me calling him on Sunday evening, even though he had previously been willing to offer his sound-bite. He had also previously said, "I'm reasonably a public figure," thereby acknowledging the public has an interest in learning his stance on the SAFE petition. I said, "I'm just trying to get an accurate quote," and I noted the difficulties of two busy people connecting during the business day. I'm not sure if Beauprez heard this last point, as he hung up on me, refusing further comment.
Beauprez made similarly vacuous statements to Boulder's Daily Camera: "I happen to think it [the SAFE background registration check initiative] makes sense," he said in a May 10 article.
However, hundreds if not thousands of law-abiding Coloradans have been wrongfully denied by background checks since last fall. Such checks increase the costs of purchasing a firearm and raise substantial legal hurdles, since those wrongfully denied must then prove themselves innocent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Whereas criminals often resort to theft or the black market to get guns, many honest people are left defenseless against criminal attack.
Background registration checks infringe the right of self-defense, even though the Colorado Constitution states, "The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question..."
But Beauprez' support of the gun restriction proposal comes as no surprise. Last September, he sent a letter urging Republican legislators to "proactively" push new gun restriction laws in the 2000 session. The text of that letter and additional commentary can be found at http://www.freecolorado.com/1999/09/squishgop.html.
BetteRose Smith, state chair of the Libertarian Party, took a decidedly different position than that of her Republican counterpart, offering a strong defense of civil arms liberties.
Smith said, "The SAFE initiative is just a way to get a foot in the door to end private gun transactions and require universal background checks. If Republicans are fed up with their leadership pushing gun control, there is an alternative. The Libertarian Party consistently advocates the right to keep and bear arms and calls for the repeal of all background check legislation."
Unlike Beauprez, Smith was eager to help educate the public about her views. I had called Beauprez shortly after 8:00 pm but didn't reach Smith until after 9:00. I apologized to her for calling late, and she replied, "That's ok -- this is important."