The gun control debate stands to heat up in Colorado once again due to new legislation being considered in the state Senate.
Last week, state Senator Tim Neville introduced the Constitutional Carry bill, a measure that would allow Coloradans concealed carry of firearms without a permit. According to coverage from the Denver Channel, Neville introduced the bill in an effort to make it possible for people to defend themselves without having to pay a lot of money for a permit.
This legislation, which is still in committee in the state legislature, feels like a reasonable change in firearms policy in an open-carry state such as Colorado. However, I don’t think that this legislation by itself will do the best job of striking a balance between the interests of freedom and public safety. If we are to allow gun owners concealed carry rights without any oversight, which I believe we should, then this should be coupled with stronger checks earlier in the firearms acquisition process.
This should not be misinterpreted as a call for more gun control. While I personally would rather live without guns, I respect that others disagree, and I believe in the right of others to pursue and obtain whatever makes them happy. Furthermore, I agree that if you purchase a weapon as a means of protection that you should be able to carry it with you wherever you wish in public in order to do so. A person could have any number of intentions for possession and use of a firearm, yet this crucial aspect of the issue is virtually impossible to measure or control. To be judicious, gun policy should be focused on the more concrete elements of gun ownership.
That being said, there does need to be at least some oversight on firearms as a means of due diligence in the interest of public safety. Oftentimes when gun control is politicized in the media, there are some who claim that further regulations would only punish responsible gun owners while failing to stop criminals. This point, however, actually highlights the main issue: How is the public supposed to tell a responsible gun owner from an unfit one without any checks or view into their histories to distinguish between the two? Background checks and the like in principle are not meant to persecute consumers or let bureaucracy interfere with one’s purchasing decisions, they are meant to be socially responsible by assuring that those who purchase lethal weapons have the general stability and training to use them properly.
Instead of more or less gun regulations, what I believe would be the best compromise would be to eliminate the concealed carry permit as proposed by state Senator Neville, but increase the requirements for obtaining a gun license to the standards currently necessary to obtain a concealed carry permit. In other words, you would still need to complete a handgun training course and a thorough background check in order to receive a license, but then you would be free to carry your weapons in public areas however you wish.
While this would greatly increase the amount of time and money required to get guns initially, this would also greatly increase the amount of liberty consumers would have to carry their weapons after receiving their licenses. This would also be a great balance of gun liberty and public safety — gun owners would face no restrictions on carrying in public areas, and the increased standards for licensing would assure the public that all gun owners are well-trained and responsible with their weaponry. Indeed, to the credit of responsible gun owners, increased concealed carry permit holders are correlated with large drops in crime and violent activity, and they get charged with firearms violations at a rate 23 times less than police officers. The standards for these permits have proven to be effective.
While it is important to respect the rights of others to own firearms if they so wish, it is also our responsibility as a society to provide some level of oversight to assure that those who obtain lethal weapons have the right mind and technical knowledge to use them in a way that will not harm others and distinguish them from those who might. I believe that transferring the requirements for a concealed carry permit to an initial gun license would be the best way to a strike a balance between the interests of firearms consumers and public safety to increase both liberty and safety for people in Colorado. Responsible gun owners should be given greater liberty under the law, but there should be a more substantial check in place to assure that those who are packing are indeed responsible.
Collegian Senior Columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @seanskenn.