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House advances lost, stolen guns bill over GOP objections

Pat Poblete - Colorado Politics | Published on 4/7/2021

The state House on Thursday advanced over the objections of the chamber’s Republicans a bill mandating owners of firearms to report to law enforcement within five days if that weapon is lost or stolen.

Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Centennial Democrat who sponsored Senate Bill 21-078 in the House, touted the measure as an awareness bill and noted data shows over 60% of Colorado gun owners already report to law enforcement when their weapon is lost or stolen.

“The problem with that is that a majority isn't good enough,” he said. “Firearms are getting into the hands of those who shouldn't have them: felons, those with mental health issues and our youth.”

At least 300,000 privately-owned firearms are stolen every year, according to one survey. An analysis of federal data by the Center for American Progress estimated that 31,848 firearms were stolen in Colorado between 2012 and 2017. A survey of state and federal prisoners in 2016 found roughly one in five reported carrying a gun while committing their crime. Approximately 13% had either stolen the gun or "found it" at the scene of the crime. Nearly half obtained the gun from an unlicensed or "street" source.

Sullivan also highlighted a poll from Keating Research released in January 2019 showing nearly 90% of respondents in both rural and urban Colorado supported the concept.

“This is the type of legislation that we should pass that would be a clear and decisive bipartisan manner to show the people of Colorado that we hear them, that the events of last Monday are a tragedy and that we won't have to continue to live our lives like this," he said, referencing the mass shooting in Boulder last week that claimed 10 lives. Sullivan’s son Alex died in the 2012 Aurora Theater shooting.

The measure would require firearm owners to report to law enforcement within five days of learning their gun has been lost or stolen. The relevant information in the report would include model, serial number, caliber and manufacturer, if known. Failing to report would merit a $25 fine for the first incident, and would be a misdemeanor crime on subsequent occasions, with a fine of up to $500.

After clearing the House Judiciary Committee the day after the mass shooting in Boulder, the bill on Thursday advanced past the second reading stage over the criticisms of Republicans.

“This bill is making a victim a criminal, and that is so anathema to the vast majority of bills that we pass down here,” said Rep. Colin Larson, R-Littleton,

That line mirrored the comments of nearly all of his GOP colleagues who spoke to the bill. Rep. Shane Sandridge, R-Colorado Springs, described the proposal as “an attack on law-abiding citizens” while Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, likened it to “taking a sledgehammer to victims.”

GOP lawmakers saw more than a half-dozen amendments shot down by Democrats, including proposals from:

But after each of those measures failed to win approval, the chamber found common ground on an amendment from Geitner and Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock. That three-part amendment allows someone other than the owner of the firearm to make the lost or stolen report, allows the owner not to have to admit they own the firearm and eliminates criminal prosecution for improper storage of a firearm if it's being reported as lost or stolen.

Rep. Leslie Herod, who along with Sullivan sponsored the bill in the House, praised the amendment as “surgical.”

“I want to thank my colleagues from the other side of the aisle for working so hard to ensure that we are actually speaking about the same thing and providing the right protections where needed,” the Denver Democrat said. “It gets to kind of what our goals are, which is to ensure that firearms that are lost or stolen are reported.”

But while the amendment passed, Republicans still vocally opposed the adoption of the bill on second reading and proposed several unsuccessful Committee of the Whole amendments trying to strike it down. The bill is now poised for third reading and final passage out of the House, at which point it would be subject to a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the version passed by the Senate last month.

The proposal is one of several gun-related measures before the General Assembly this year. Although several Republican-sponsored bills have since died, a Democratic proposal about safe firearm storage passed the House of Representatives last month after similarly vigorous debate. Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, also told reporters earlier this week “all options should be on the table” in the aftermath of the mass shooting in his city.