By Beth Dodd
While I was sitting at my computer finishing my story about the gun control debate and its local impact, I received an “emergency” robo-call urging me to sign a petition to prevent an avalanche of looming “gun-grabbing legislation” designed to end my second amendment rights for all eternity.
As one of the three people in Teller County not barricaded inside my home waiting for the evil overlord Obama to pry the guns out of my cold, dead hands, I wondered what are my rights to bare arms in Colorado? Who would want to go sleeveless in January anyway?
Colorado is actually one of the more permissive states when it comes to gun control, according to the 2012 edition of the Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States by J. Scott Kappas. Kappas writes, “Colorado still maintains a strong western tradition when it comes to guns. Despite the growth of a sizable population of liberal “refugees” from California, the state’s gun laws continue to reflect the best of the gun-owning Rocky Mountain West.” (He’s found me! I’d better get a gun!)
To buy a gun in Colorado, I need to complete a federal ATF Form 4473. This document helps licensed gun dealers identify me as a person to whom they can legally sell a weapon. On the form, I must certify that I:
• Am buying the gun for my own use
• Am not a felon, a fugitive from justice, a drug addict, or an illegal alien
• Have never been declared mentally defective or committed involuntarily
• Have never had a dishonorable discharge from the military
• Have no history of domestic violence or a restraining order against me
• Have not renounced my U.S. citizenship.
Luckily, there are no restrictions against liberal political refugees from California. The dealer must keep my Form 4473 for twenty years if I buy a gun, but only for five if I am denied permission to buy one.
To get my gun, I must also pass federal and state background checks. The fed system is called NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. NICS gathers information about felons from all 50 states into a national database. I also need to pass a second check by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation or CBI. Gun shows in Colorado are also required to run these checks on buyers, a requirement enacted by citizen ballot back in 2000 following the Columbine tragedy. Private gun sales, however, are not regulated.
In Colorado, there is no waiting period and no gun registration, nor am I required to secure my gun in a locked gun safe or to store my ammunition in a separate place. But being a paragon of personal responsibility, I’ll do it anyway and teach my kids about gun safety. So now that I’ve passed my background checks, I can become the proud owner my own gun. What can I do with it?
Colorado citizens over age 21 can carry handguns with a concealed carry permit, which is generally issued by the county sheriff and lasts five years. A class and background checks must be passed to ensure that a person can handle the gun. There is disagreement about what this entails however.
Some counties accept watching a one-hour gun safety video online, while others (including Teller) require a classroom course taught by an instructor. Most of the states surrounding Colorado have tougher concealed-carry requirements. In Utah, Nebraska and Kansas, they require that all certifications be done in person by an instructor, including supervised shooting-range proficiency. In Wyoming, residents do not need a permit or a background check to carry a concealed firearm.
But I just want a gun to protect my home, so I am not interested in a concealed-carry permit. I do not need a permit to use my gun at home, and Colorado has had a castle doctrine since 1985. What’s this? Think “every woman’s home is her castle.” This is also known as the Make-My-Day Law.
Basically, I have the right to use physical force, even deadly force, to defend myself from attack if my home is invaded and I am threatened with physical harm by a person committing a crime in my home. For example, I would not be justified in shooting a confused drunk who blundered into my house by accident, but I would be justified in shooting someone stealing my jewelry and threatening me with a knife.
Then again, sometimes I have a craving for venison. To get a hunting license in Colorado, I must take a hunter safety education course first. A course may be completed online or in the classroom, and written and range tests must be passed to finish the course.
So watch out, all you Rocky Mountain rednecks! Next time you see this old California girl, she might be packin’ the heat!