Saturday, July 21, 2012

Colorado's Lax Gun Laws

Here in Virginia, the GOP controlled General Assembly seems to want nothing less than a return to the old west where almost everyone is packing.  Worse yet, the guns are often concealed thanks to easily secured concealed carry permits.  And obviously, the more legal guns there are, the greater the supply available to fall into the hands of criminals and obviously mentally ill "law abiding citizens" like the shooter in Colorado.  The extremists who can always be relied upon to whine and carry on about 2nd Amendment rights - which in their warped world the right to have virtually any deadly weapon - bear a direct guilt for the lives lost yesterday.  As do the gutless politicians who roll over like cheap whores to the elements of the far right and the gun lobby.  The frightening truth is that what happened in Colorado could easily occur in Virginia because almost anyone can secure a gun if they really want one.  And to me, it's no coincidence that typically the gun advocates are the same folks who seethe with anti-gay, anti-Muslim, and anti-minority venom.  That's why it is telling to look at Colorado's pathetic gun laws that allowed James Holmes to purchase 4 guns in a two month time period - particular an automatic weapon.  Here are highlights from a New York Times article:

As a mountain state, Colorado has a history of broad support for Second Amendment rights. But in the years since the Columbine tragedy, the state’s lawmakers and voters passed some gun restrictions, including requirements governing the sale of firearms at gun shows, a law regulating people’s ability to carry concealed weapons and legislation banning “straw purchases” of weapons for people who would not qualify to buy them legitimately. 

Still, James Holmes, 24, the former neuroscience student believed to be the lone gunman in Friday’s shootings in Aurora, armed himself with an assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun to allegedly kill 12 and wound 59 others, many critically. All were weapons that would probably be legal for him to possess.   “The guy basically had normal guns,” said Eugene Volokh, an expert in constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles. Unless some new evidence of documented psychiatric disturbance emerges, Mr. Volokh added, “there’s no indication that, from his record, he is someone whom more restrictive screening procedures would have caught.” 

Despite the changes over the past 13 years, Colorado law still prohibits local governments from restricting gun rights in several significant ways. Moreover, gun rights organizations have successfully fought other efforts to restrict access to guns, including blocking a University of Colorado rule prohibiting concealed weapons on campus. 

Carrying a concealed weapon requires a permit, but Colorado is among those states whose rules on permits are relatively lax, said Heather Morton of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Colorado is one of 38 “shall issue” states. She explained that this meant “if a person complies with all of the requirements, then the state must issue a concealed weapons permit.” 

In the never-ending argument, tragedy can become a talking point. Luke O’Dell, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado-based group that fights gun control measures, said private gun restrictions may well have had “tragic consequences” in the shootings. 

He noted that the theater chain that owns the Aurora movie house bans firearms on the premises, and said that if other patrons had been legally able to carry weapons, the death toll might have been less. Mr. O’Dell also said that Mayor Bloomberg’s call for a discussion of gun issues was “exploiting the blood of these innocent victims to advance his political agenda.” 

I'd argue that it is O'Dell who is exploiting the blood of the victims, not Michael Bloomberg.  Can you imagine how many more lives might have been lost if, as Mr. O'Dell argues, a panicked shooting free for all had broken out between Holmes and gun packing movie goers?  The only real solution is to get automatic weapons out of the hands of civilians and to have strict limits on hand gun purchases.

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