Written by Patty Nyberg, Associated Press / Report to America
Colorado lawmakers who are Second Amendment advocates and gun violence activists have heard a bill requiring firearms to be stored safely when not in use to keep them away from children and others who should not have access to them.
Supporters of the bill asked a House committee on Monday to pass legislation to protect children from accidental gun injuries and teenagers from the use of firearms in suicide attempts.
Dr. Sindo Sodanagunta, an emergency medicine physician at Children’s Hospital of Colorado, shared the story of her 14-year-old patient to illustrate how firearms are “disproportionately lethal” in suicide attempts. The patient she referred to as “James” had used a gun stored in his father’s locker.
“If a child comes in while swallowing a bottle of Tylenol, I can give him medicine and get rid of this damage.” But that bullet in James’s brain is not something I can undo, ”Sodanagunta said.
From 2009 to 2019, data from the Colorado Violent Death Reporting System found that 312 teens and young adults under the age of 20 participated in firearm suicides – nearly 31 individuals annually, according to the bill of money memo.
Opponents of the bill argued that it would be an unconstitutional limit to responsible gun owners and could threaten families from accessing their weapons in dangerous situations such as theft.
Eric Stone, the Teller County Commissioner who also opposed the measure, asked the sponsors of the bill to focus on educating young people about the proper use and prevention of firearms rather than imposing a penalty after a fatal accident.
You cannot do this by creating laws that have penalties after an accident. Stone said it’s completely ineffective, so focus on education.
The bill requires that the Office of Suicide Prevention within the Colorado Department of Health develop and implement an education campaign about the safe storage and state requirements on firearm safety.
Others in support said it was a logical suggestion similar to other child protection measures. Rep. Monica Duran, a Jefferson County Democrat who sponsored the bill, compared the purpose of the legislation to current safety recommendations and requirements for prescription pills, toxic household chemicals and fireworks to keep them away from children.
Doran said, “These measures do not impede the use of these materials, but they are there to preserve the safety of our children, and guns are no exception.”
Guns on or near Malik can “easily recover and use firearms” are exempt from penalty. Illegal storage of a firearm is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of between $ 250 and $ 1,000.
The bill, which will go into effect in July, will require licensed arms dealers to provide a locking device when selling or transporting firearms. Failure to comply is a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $ 500.
The bill also requires a state court official to send an annual report to the General Assembly on the number and type of fees related to the unsafe storage of weapons.
The bill approved the committee by a majority of 7 to 4 party-line votes, and the members of the Republican Committee voted against it. The legislation will go to the Colorado Council Chamber for debate.
The Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee will hear another gun-related bill Thursday, which would require owners to report lost or stolen firearms within five days of disclosure to law enforcement. Police must then enter the firearm information into the National Crime Information Center database and report it to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Patty Nyberg is a member of the Associated Press / Report of America State House News Initiative. Report for America is a not-for-profit national service program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report classified issues.