Along with House Bill 21-1106, which is set to require gun owners to use locking devices, gun safes or other devices to secure firearms in the home, the Senate also sent a bill to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk last week requiring firearm owners to report to law enforcement within five days of learning their gun has been lost or stolen. Polis received Senate Bill 21-078 last Thursday but has not yet acted on it.
Debate before the full Senate on the safe storage bill was far more muted than in the House, where the measure generated over 30 GOP amendments, all but one rejected, and threats of rebellion and violence.
In that chamber, Rep. Richard Holtorf said the bill will push the divide between rural and urban Colorado further and warned rebellion may be the next step. People from rural Colorado have had enough, he said.
"Our country was founded on rebellion," Holtorf, R-Akron, said, "and there are political winds where I come from ... As we chisel away, with the best intentions, if this continues to go like this, there may be a breaking point."
The message he brings is not his own, Holtorf said. But in the "farthest ends of the state, there's guns-a-go-go and nobody's afraid of them and nobody's afraid to use them."
Those comments drew a rebuke from House Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver, before his chamber gave final approval to the bill with a near party-line vote. La Jara Democratic Rep. Don Valdez joined all House Republicans in opposition to the bill.
Unlike the House, where debate on the proposal lasted over 10 hours fueled by GOP objections, lawmakers in the Senate moved quickly to advance the measure once it was before them.
In last week's debate, Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Douglas County, raised questions about the type of storage cases that would fit within the bill’s definition. Comments from Sens. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, and John Cooke, R-Greeley, rounded out the GOP objections to the bill raised on the Senate floor.
Both Liston and Cooke warned the provisions of the bill could render firearm owners less capable of defending themselves against home invasions.
“The United States has actually one of the lowest nighttime home invasion rates in the world. Want to know why that is? Because burglars don't want to get shot,” Cooke said. “I fear this might give them incentive to commit more home invasions because now people have to store their guns and lock them up and can't get to them in time.”
Greenwood Village Democratic Sen. Jeff Bridges, who carried the bill in the Senate along with fellow Democratic Sen. Chris Hansen of Denver, countered the measure was “incredibly targeted” at keeping kids safe.
“We know from data across the country that bills like this one work,” Bridges said. “States with these kinds of laws have 68% fewer firearm-related suicides than states without them.”
Ahead of the chamber voting on final passage on Monday, Sen. Chris Kolker shared his own emotionally charged story on firearm storage and youth suicide. The Centennial Democrat said as a child in the midst of a battle with severe depression, he took a firearm out of his father’s unlocked gun safe.
“Later that night, I told my mom what I tried to do. The next day ...," he paused, then added, "That cabinet has now been locked for 39 years.”
But Kolker said that’s not the case in all households.
“Thirteen years from that event in the same small town, a teenage student of mine, 14 years old, accessed her family's unlocked guns,” he said. “She wasn't able to stop herself.
“My support for this bill is for the safety of kids, like I once was.”
The bill now heads to the governor's desk.