Democrats move on gun bills

Keywords: Politics,

DENVER - Democrats moved to ban concealed weapons from most areas of college campuses Wednesday as they marched ahead with their gun control bills.

House Bill 1226 passed the House Education Committee on a 7-6 vote, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.

Wednesday's hearing continued with the over-arching theme of this year's debate: do armed citizens make a place safer, or more dangerous?

Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, sponsored the bill and said college is no place for guns. She said her bill would not prevent mass shootings, but it would guard against everyday acts of violence and suicide.

"No law can prevent someone bent on destruction from accomplishing what they intend to accomplish," Levy said. "We can try at least to prevent or minimize risks that arise on a daily basis from the mere presence of guns."

The bill prohibits people who holder concealed weapon permits from bringing their guns into any college building, stadium or outdoor event at a college where the administration has decided to ban guns.

It addresses a 2012 state Supreme Court decision that said the University of Colorado overstepped its authority under state law by banning concealed guns from campus.

Testimony from several University of Colorado students and professors supported Levy.

Julie Carr, a CU-Boulder creative writing teacher, said every semester she has students with mental health problems.

"They change their medication or they stop taking it, and they fall into various levels of anxiety or depression," Carr said. "I want to help and teach my students and not fear them."

But opponents contended that one person's fear of guns should not trump another's right to self-defense.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith spoke for the County Sheriffs of Colorado, which opposes most of the gun-control bills.

"People admitted that fear wasn't backed up with statistics. It just was a fear of a gun," Smith said.

The hearing also featured a debate on whether college students are mature enough to handle guns.

"We know statistically that kids in this age group engage in risky behavior. They binge drink. They experiment with drugs. That's what you do when you go to college - not everybody, but statistically that does happen," Levy said.

Scott Hendrick, a recent Colorado State University graduate, said he is on his way to the military, and his friends have risked their lives for their country.

"Frankly, I find it extremely insulting," Hendrick said, "to be belittled as children and say we don't have the experience to know discretion, when the whole point of college is discretion."

It's been a busy week for gun bills in the House.

On Wednesday, another House panel voted to apply a fee of around $10 to anyone buying a gun to pay for a background check.

And on Tuesday, a different committee advanced bills to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines and to require background checks for private-party gun sales.

joeh@cortezjournal.com