House allows concealed weapons without license

Thursday, March 3, 2011 6:35 PM

DENVER – The House voted Wednesday to allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

House Bill 1205 would make a permit optional, but it would not change the criteria on who is allowed to carry a hidden gun.

To qualify, people must be Colorado residents; age 21; without a mental illness or problems of chronic drunkenness or drug abuse; and not the subject of a restraining order. In addition, people must pass a gun safety class.

County sheriffs issue the permits. HB 1205 basically relies on the honor system to let people decide if they qualify to carry concealed weapons.

The House passed the bill 40-25, with all Republicans and seven Democrats – including Minority Leader Sal Pace of Pueblo – voting yes. The bill still needs to survive the Democratic-controlled Senate before it could go to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The bill applies “to law abiding citizens who are confident they already qualify,” said the sponsor, Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker.

But Democrats warned of dire consequences.

“We will all be less safe because of it. I do not want to worry when my children go down to the park to play that there are people down there with a concealed weapon who nobody knows about,” said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder. “This is a very dangerous bill.”

Republicans argued that the current permit system is not a deterrent to crime.

“If the bad guy’s going to commit a crime, the bad guy’s going to commit a crime and doesn’t worry about a petty offense,” said Waller, a former deputy district attorney in Pueblo County.

Police officials oppose the bill, said Rep. Deb Gardner, D-Longmont.

“It is inevitable, if House Bill 1205 passes, eventually a Colorado police officer will die because a person who shouldn’t have a gun is carrying a concealed weapon,” Gardner said.

Opponents also included Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, whose son, Javad, was shot to death along with his fiance in 2005, a week before he was scheduled to testify in a murder case. His two killers, Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray, were sentenced to death last year.

“This bill goes far too far. Allowing just anyone to carry a concealed weapon is going to make our communities far less safe,” Fields said.

Holbert disagreed.

“This bill does not give criminals greater flexibility or rights under the law,” he said.

Holbert has a gun, but he said he does not carry it concealed in public because he does not have a permit and does not want to pay the $152.50 fee to get one.

“I’ve never applied for a concealed carry permit, because for me, it’s insulting,” Holbert said.

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