DENVER (AP) – A panel would study firearm restrictions on the mentally ill and those suffering from substance abuse in Colorado under a proposal unveiled Friday that’s heavily scaled back from what a Democratic lawmaker initially wanted to do.
The measure from Democratic Rep. Beth McCann would establish a bipartisan panel of lawmakers, mental health professionals and firearm experts that would meet five times and issue a report to the Colorado Legislature by January 2015.
It’s a significant departure from what McCann was considering in the aftermath of last summer’s massacre at a suburban Denver movie theater, where 12 people were killed and dozens injured. The suspect in the case had been treated by a psychologist and his attorneys say he’s mentally ill.
Last week, McCann quickly pulled a proposal after details of it became public. It would have allowed psychologists, nurses, and counselors to refer individuals to the national background check system to prohibit them from having firearms for a year.
That bill, which was never introduced, was immediately criticized by gun-rights advocates, who said the measure raised serious questions about violating individuals’ due-process rights.
McCann said she wanted to take a more careful approach with her latest bill.
“We’re trying to get a very balanced task force to really delve into this issue in depth,” she said.
McCann’s newest bill reads that the purpose is to form a task force that would “advise the general assembly regarding issues surrounding the loss, maintenance, and restoration of the right to purchase and possess firearms by persons who, as a result of mental health issues, alcohol abuse, or substance abuse, are clearly dangerous to the health and safety of themselves or others.”
Democrats have already passed strict new firearm laws this year. One limits the size of ammunition magazines, and another expands background checks to all gun purchases to include private and online sales.
Both laws, which are responses to last year’s mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut, become effective July 1.
Those proposals passed without a single Republican vote.
McCann said she consulted with Republicans on her latest bill, and hopes they can support it.
“I respect people’s Second Amendment rights and I want to see if we can find the proper balance between public safety and Second Amendment rights,” she said.
Dave Kopel, a constitutional law professor and research director at the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank in Denver, praised McCann’s latest bill. He had been critical of her previous proposal.
“Kudos to Rep. McCann,” he said. “This is exactly the right approach to take, which is thoughtful, careful and something that allows the opportunity to take into account the views of all the experts on the subject.”
LINK: Read The Bill
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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