DENVER (AP) – People in Colorado wouldn’t need a permit to carry a concealed weapon under a bill headed for approval in the Republican-led state House.
The bill doesn’t change laws governing who is allowed to carry a concealed weapon, but the people who do meet the legal requirements would no longer need a county permit.
Many House Democrats objected vigorously to the measure, saying gun owners are unlikely to check whether they qualify to carry a concealed gun and would think anyone who can legally own a firearm could start carrying it concealed.
After a fiery debate, the bill was approved on a voice vote. A final vote on the proposal is required before the measure heads to the Senate, but a handful of House Democrats are planning to side with the GOP on optional concealed-carry permits, making its passage appear certain.
Three other states — Alaska, Arizona and Vermont — allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Wyoming’s House has approved a bill making that state the fourth. But the Colorado Association of Police Chiefs doesn’t want Colorado to become a permit-optional state.
Opponents fear allowing concealed carry without a permit would send the message that Colorado no longer bans certain people, such as those under 21 and those with restraining orders against them, from carrying concealed weapons.
“I don’t want to worry that when my kids go down to the park, there are people with concealed weapons no one knows about. This is a very, very dangerous bill,” said Rep. Claire Levy, a Boulder Democrat.
Another Boulder Democrat, Rep. Deb Gardner, was even graver in her argument.
“Eventually a Colorado policeman will die because a person who shouldn’t have a gun is carrying one concealed,” she said.
Republicans insist fears of widespread mayhem are unfounded. Supporters say criminals are unlikely to follow concealed-weapon permitting rules anyway, and the change simply saves legal gun owners the trouble of getting permits.
“If a bad guy’s going to commit a crime, he’s going to commit a crime. He doesn’t care about some petty offense of not having a permit,” argued Republican Rep. Mark Waller of Colorado Springs, a former prosecutor.
Republicans also argued that more gun-carrying citizens could reduce crime.
“When people carry concealed, it actually, I believe, enhances public security,” Waller argued.
The debate grew tense when two Democratic opponents referenced the shooting earlier this year in Tucson, Ariz., in which 19 people were shot, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Six died. Levy mentioned Arizona’s permit-optional concealed-weapon law.
“Do we want to be in the same position that Arizona was in when that young man shot Rep. Giffords?” Levy asked. A Republican presiding over the debate told Levy to speak only about the Colorado measure.
It’s unclear whether the proposal has a chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Democrats have vowed to keep fighting the permit change.
“People are going to think they have an automatic pass to carry a concealed gun to school or work,” said Democratic Rep. Angela Williams of Denver.
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
Read House Bill 1205
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)