Law Professor David Kopel Argues Colorado Gun Laws Have Saved Lives

In a recent article written for the National Review, and then subsequently adapted for the Denver Post, David Kopel of the Independence Institute argues that post-Columbine gun reform in Colorado has saved lives.

Given recent events, the shooting in Aurora, which left 12 dead and 58 wounded, it may be difficult for someone outside the gun community to accept Kopel’s argument.  But a closer looks at the facts show that Kopel is, indeed, correct.

The centerpiece of gun reform following the mass shooting at Columbine High School was the 2003 Concealed Carry Act.  The law set up what is functionally a ‘shall issue’ process for the issuance of a CCW permit: a citizen who passes a background check and a safety-training course is permitted to carry a concealed handgun.

The act does give authority to the local sheriff to deny a permit to an applicant who may not have a criminal history, but whose documented actions show that he would be a danger to himself or others.  Though, importantly, in the case of denial, the burden of proof is on the sheriff, which means the sheriff can’t arbitrarily deny one a permit – like a sheriff can in LA Country or New York City.

Thus far, the Concealed Carry Act stymied at least one massacre, as Kopel pointed out:

In December 2007, a man murdered two teenagers at the Youth with a Mission training center in the Denver suburbs. He then drove south to Colorado Springs and attacked the New Life megachurch in Colorado Springs. He killed two people in the parking lot and then entered the building, carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Fortunately, a volunteer security guard for the church, Jeanne Assam, was carrying a licensed handgun, and she quickly shot the attacker. According to Pastor Brady Boyd, “she probably saved over 100 lives.”

Of particular interest in Kopel’s piece is his attention to the fact that Coloradoans reached a consensus on how best to regulate the use, sale and transfer of firearms.  They did this through that dirty little word that no one likes to talk about anymore, “compromise.”

Essentially, lawmakers representing both sides of the issue got together and asked the question, how can we make it more difficult for the wrong people to obtain firearms while simultaneously making it easier for responsible citizens to keep and bear arms for traditionally lawful purposes, i.e. self-defense?

What followed from this inquiry was the passage of eight specific laws, three of which fall into the “gun control category” and five of fall into the “gun rights” category.

So, as for the gun control laws, those include, as Kopel wrote, a law that forbids “adults to transfer guns to minors without parental consent. Another prohibits straw purchases (a legal buyer obtaining a gun on behalf of a prohibited person),” and a third law that says any buyer who purchases a gun at a gun show must undergo a background check regardless of who the seller is, i.e. a private citizen.

In addition to the Concealed Carry Act, the four other gun rights laws involved, as Kopel noted, “repealing an old law which had authorized the governor to ban gun sales during an emergency (when guns would be needed most); preventing localities from interfering with the transportation of guns in automobiles; limiting localities’ power to enact anti-gun laws; and forbidding suits against firearms manufacturers because of gun misuse by criminals.”

While we may not agree 100 percent with Colorado’s gun laws, some of us may contend, for example, that unrestricted carry is better than ‘shall-issue’ statutes or private sellers at gun shows should not have to submit background checks for their buyers, the reality is that the consensus is a workable solution for the people of Colorado.

Is it perfect?  No.  No policy ever is.  But at its core it seeks to do the right thing, protect the 2nd Amendment for responsible gun owners while making it more difficult for the wrong people to obtain guns.

Therefore, efforts to undermine this consensus or to radically alter the laws in light of the mass shooting in Aurora should be publicly condemned.  At this critical moment in time, when emotions are at a high, the country needs to remember that while no law will stop a sociopath from committing an unspeakable act of violence, an armed society of law-abiding citizens stands a chance.

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