Tessa Cheek-- The Colorado Independent
Republicans in the statehouse have been proposing “constitutional carry” legislation for years. In essence, the policy would allow anyone over 21 years old to carry a legally purchased handgun wherever they go — schools, parks, grocery stores. The gun would have to be concealed.
This year, with Republicans controlling the Colorado Senate, SB 32, introduced by Vicki Marble, R-Littleton, passed initial approval on the floor. It would repeal the requirement that people acquire a specific concealed-carry permit.
Concealed carry without a permit is having a big year, not just in Colorado—at least four other states have advanced similar legislation.
In Colorado, the debate over constitutional carry wasn’t just about its impact on public safety, but about whether the practice is constitutional at all.
Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, a gun owner who was instrumental in drafting Colorado’s concealed carry regulations back in 2003, quoted the state Constitution, pointing out that it does not, in fact, elevate concealed carry to an inalienable right:
“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 nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons.”
“A change to current law is only going to make our public spaces less safe,” said Merrifield.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R- Berthoud, had a different take. He argued that the constitution simply left it up to the legislature to regulate concealed carry.
“It’s most appropriate that we address this in statute,” said Lundberg. “We are talking about safety here. We’re talking about deterrence. We’re talking about making sure that the good guy has the chance to defend themselves and their family.”
Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, acknowledged that Marble’s bill wouldn’t remove the existing permit process for concealed carry, but added that rendering that process voluntary would create a tremendous loophole. He, along with others in his caucus opposing the measure, pointed out that SB 32 could allow people with violent records, substance abuse issues and even restraining orders to conceal carry without undergoing a background check or training.
The measure was adopted today on a voice vote and will come up for a final vote later in the week.