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March 26, 2013
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Grand County locals take aim at gun control bills

A trio of gun-control bills signed into law by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper last week are drawing mixed reviews and some political fire locally.The bills were signed into law by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on Wednesday, March 20. One bill limits high capacity ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, the second requires universal background checks, and the third charges gun sellers the cost of completing a background check.The bills were passed in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting that took place in December 2012 and the July Aurora movie theater shooting, which have sparked a national debate about imposing stricter gun controls.The three new laws in Colorado aim to "make sure that guns don't get into the hands of criminals and prevent gun deaths from people who may have some violent tendencies," said State Rep. Claire Levy, who voted for all three bills and who represents House District 13, which includes Grand County. "Generally I disagree with all three of [the bills]," said Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson. "My biggest concern is three things: They are ineffective, unenforceable, and will cost us money."Concerns have also been voiced by Colorado businesses that the new laws will have an impact on them. Magpul Industries, an ammunition magazine manufacturer based in Erie, has reported that it will be move out of the state due to the new law limiting the sale of high-capacity magazines, despite the fact the bill has language allowing the manufacture of high capacity magazines in the Colorado.Clark and Maralyn Branstetter, owners of C&M Guns, a gun shop located in Hot Sulphur Springs, expect the new laws will impact their business as well because it will affect what products they will be able to sell after the laws go into effect on July 1.High capacity magazine limitsUnder House Bill 13-1224, it will be illegal to sell, transfer, or possess a fixed or detachable magazine or similar device capable of accepting or which can be readily converted to accept more than 15 rounds of ammunition. A person may possess a large-capacity magazine if the person owned the magazine before the law goes into effect July 1.Supporters believe this new law is a "reasonable restriction on firearms that wouldn't impede on hunting and the Second Amendment," Levy said."People are concerned that high-capacity magazines make guns more efficient killing machines," she said. "Hunters and sportsman don't use high capacity magazines but mass killers do use them."Sheriff Johnson says he believes the new law will be difficult to enforce and that this might be spending law enforcement money in the wrong place.He offered an example of someone who goes into a neighboring state and purchases a high capacity magazine and brings it back to Colorado after the effective date of the law."How would we know if that took place?," he said. "I don't think there is a certain capacity that allows for public safety to be considered safer," Johnson added. "If someone is willing to shoot another person, there is an inherent problem there.""It is always going to be illegal to shoot someone."Another hitch in the law comes from the language that outlaws magazines which can be converted to accept more than 15 rounds of ammunition, said Maralyn Branstetter.According to Branstetter, "the majority of [handguns], except revolvers, come with magazines that hold more than 15 rounds and nearly all magazines have removable base plates so you can clean them."A removable base plate puts a magazine in the "readily convertible category" because such magazines can accept extenders to increase their capacity."As many laws as you can make out there, there are plenty of people willing to break them," Johnson said.The Branstetters are trying to set up a time for District Attorney Brett Barkey to come into to their shop to help them and their customers understand the new laws and what impacts they will have on their business."I resent that the Democrats present themselves as being about jobs," Branstetter said. "Well, you might be losing two jobs in Hot Sulphur Springs."Background checksThe two other bills that were signed into law call for universal background checks, meaning a background check would have to be completed for private firearms transfers by the parties, and a fee would be charged to recoup the cost of completing a background check by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.The issue that surrounds requiring a background check for private gun transfers is that the person who is selling or transferring the firearm would be liable for completing the background check for the potential transferee and would theoretically be liable for the person who received the firearm.Branstetter commented that when a background check is completed by their store, they are in essence held liable for the transfer of that firearm."The background checks would be required of the seller, not the buyer," Johnson said, "meaning they would be the one held liable for it.""In the past state taxpayer dollars have been used for background checks," Levy said.While charging for background checks will remove the tax burden on Colorado taxpayers of supplementing these fees, Johnson believes this is a way to attach these costs to a specific group."I just dislike the government coming up with a fee every time they need money," Johnson said.When the cost of completing background checks comes from taxpayer money, "theoretically, we are paying to keep everyone safe," Johnson said.Levy commented that requiring would-be gun sellers to pay for background checks brings gun purchasing in line with requirements for other background checks, such as teachers who must pay to have a background check completed before they can accept a job."I'm a teacher and I paid for my background check," Branstetter said. "But that doesn't guarantee me a job."Branstetter commented that it is not a constitutional right to be given a teaching position, unlike the ability to own a firearm."I feel that the Second Amendment is the teeth to all of our rights," Branstetter said. "Because if you don't have a way to protect your rights, who can say that you still have the right to assemble or any other right?"


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The Sky-Hi News Updated Mar 26, 2013 06:54PM Published Mar 26, 2013 06:51PM Copyright 2013 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.