Biometric trigger lock

Biometric trigger lock. Photo courtesy

Democratic lawmakers on Friday introduced bills requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms or ensure that guns in households with minors be locked up.

Failure to report a missing firearms could earn a fine; failure to lock up a gun in a house with children could earn the gun owners up to six months in jail.

House Bill 1356, which deals with lost or stolen firearms, is sponsored by Reps. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, and Sonja Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont.

House Bill 1355, on gun storage, is sponsored by Reps. Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, and Kyle Mullica, D-Thornton.

Last year, two suspects in the shooting at the STEM High School in Highlands Ranch broke into a locked gun cabinet and stole the guns used in the shooting.

The bill would create an offense — a Class 2 misdemeanor — of failure to store a firearm in a manner that could prevent a juvenile to gain access. 

HB 1355 requires guns to have either trigger locks, cable locks or be stored in a gun safe, rather than a cabinet. 

Firearms dealers would be required to provide buyers at the time of purchase with a locking device, and failure to do so could earn the dealer a $500 fine. 

The bill outlines the types of locking devices, including biometric data (such as a fingerprint that could be used to unlock a gun safe). Duran, however, said the bill doesn't dictate which kind of locking device to use, only that one should be used.

In addition to juveniles, the bill also applies to anyone who is ineligible to possess a gun under state or federal law.

The bill includes a couple of exceptions. If a person wants to keep a firearm on a bedside table at night, that's OK under the bill. Antique guns are excluded under the measure. 

The bill also allows a juvenile to grab an unlocked gun to defend livestock.

On Friday, the day both bills were introduced, Moms Demand Action, a gun control group, held a lobbying day at the Capitol. In a statement, the group said that safe gun storage reduces the risk of gun violence, and pointed out that in Colorado, "an average of 51 children and teens die by guns every year, and 63% of these deaths are suicide. Gun suicides among children and teens in Colorado have increased 61 percent from 2009 to 2018," the statement said.

Duran told Colorado Politics that 350 children under the age of 18 gain access to a gun and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else, and that 77% of those incidents take place in the home.

Responsible gun owners already do this, said Duran, who is a gun owner. "I understand about the importance of safe storage," she said.

The bill includes an education campaign, and Duran said she hopes to see hospitals and schools pass along that information. She said 11 other states already have laws similar to the kind proposed in Colorado, and that she's met with opponents such as the National Rifle Association. "It's about safety," she said.

Sullivan, who last year was a co-sponsor of HB 19-1177, the red flag law, explained his measure is intended to address the problem of additional crimes committed when a gun is lost or stolen. A person commits one crime in stealing a gun, he said, with an intent to use it for another crime.

FBI statistics show that more than 31,000 firearms were stolen or lost between 2012 and 2017. Not all guns that are lost or stolen are reported, he added, and so the numbers are likely considerably higher. 

The report on a lost or stolen firearm would go into an already-existing database maintained by the FBI's National Crime Information Center,.

The bill requires that report be filed with a law enforcement agency within 48 hours after the gun is lost or stolen. A first offense for failure to report can earn a $25 fine; a second or subsequent offense is a Class 3 misdemeanor, which carries a $50 to $750 fine and/or six months in jail.

Fourteen states already have similar laws on the books, Sullivan said. 

Sullivan said he hopes the law also would reduce the incidence of "straw" purchases, when someone sells guns to a person who can't pass a background check. Reporting stolen guns to the database, he explained, could identify multiple stolen guns being sold by the same person. 

KUSA reported in 2018 that at least 800 guns were stolen out of cars between 2008 and 2015. 

Sullivan said that in some cases, firearms are just sitting in the glove compartment or a car or under the seat. He said that earlier this year, in El Paso County, groups of kids were being dropped off in neighborhoods and checking cars to see which ones were unlocked, and 17 guns were stolen. 

According to the left-leaning Center for American Progress, in 2019, six law enforcement officers in Alabama were fatally shot in the line of duty; in five of those shootings, the guns used were stolen. 

Neither bill is yet scheduled for a hearing. 

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