DENVER, Colorado - Democrats pushed four gun bills through the Colorado House of Representatives that have made the state ground zero in the gun debate.
Democrats insist they're protecting the public's safety. Republicans insist they're protecting the public's rights.
Democrats control both Colorado's House and Senate in this year's state Legislature. Gov. John Hickenlooper is also a Democrat.
Among other things, Democrats say their bills close a loophole in Colorado's system of background checks for gun purchasers.
About 40 percent of gun sales pass through this loophole, Democrats say, calling it a way to "skirt the law."
House Democrats also passed a bill that would ban the sale, purchase or transfer of ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 bullets or eight shotgun shells.
House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, a Democrat, called the debate, "full and fair."
Republicans, who lost on voice votes, had a different perspective.
"My colleagues across the aisle are only concerned about public safety when it comes to limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens," said House Minority Leader Mark Waller, a Republican from Colorado Springs.
Waller said Democrats killed three bills earlier this session that would have strengthened Colorado's punishment of anyone convicted of sexual assault.
"When it comes to gun control, Democrats are the self-anointed protectors of our families and children," Waller said. "But when it comes to protecting children from pedophiles and women from violence, the Democrats refuse to work with Republicans on ways we can strengthen our criminal justice system and prevent future tragedies from occurring."
A Boulder company says it will leave the state if HB 1224 becomes law.
Magpul, Colorado's largest and most profitable manufacturer of high-capacity ammunition magazines, said it would leave the state if the HB 1224 becomes law.
If Magpul leaves, Colorado will lose an estimated $85 million dollars in revenue and approximately 600 jobs.
The National Rifle Association opposes all four bills, saying they Colorado's bills are threatening Americans' Second Amendment rights, said NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford.
CBI streamlining background checks
While the debate drags on under the state Capitol's Golden Dome in Denver, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is creating its own ways to move those background checks along more quickly.
The CBI will redirect some resources and extend InstaCheck's operating hours.
Requests for firearms background checks topped 1,100 per day in January, much higher compared to recent years, but that's still less than the CBI's projections of 1,500 per day.
The backlog should be cleared up soon, said CBI Director Ron Sloan, barring additional surges in requests for background checks for firearms purchases.
"We've constantly been monitoring the volume of requests for background checks and believe a window of opportunity currently exists to implement a plan to make tremendous headway in reducing the existing queue for background checks for firearms purchases," Sloan said. "We believe redirecting staffing for a minimal period of time will not adversely affect the service delivery of other CBI work units."
Sloan stressed that it's a short-term solution to address the existing backlog and meet the needs of licensed firearms dealers and their customers.
The CBI's plan will:
• Utilize the existing InstaCheck staff (21 people) to conduct background checks.
• Redirect staffing (16 people) from other CBI work groups (not including those who conduct employment/civil background checks) to assist in the process.
• Extend InstaCheck hours of operation to 15 hours a day (6 a.m.-9 p.m.)
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.