GUEST COMMENTARY | Let’s Talk About Guns
by District 59 Rep. Mike McLachlan
Feb 22, 2013 | 1282 views | 1 1 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print

This week, the House Judiciary Committee heard two measures, which I ultimately supported, that have generated more unilateral messaging than any other issue to date since my election. Overwhelmingly, my constituents and many others have been distressed about my votes in favor of expanded background check for firearms and magazine limitations. 

When I say we need to have a conversation, I mean that we cannot continue to address gun violence with kneejerk reactions on either side of the debate. There are people in this district that believe the Second Amendment is the only amendment that cannot have any limitations or parameters around it in any way. There are also people in this district who believe we should ban all assault weapons, all high-capacity magazines and do whatever we can to discourage gun ownership.  I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment who is also concerned about the gun violence that permeates our society. I am concerned about the use of guns by criminals and the mentally ill, who constitute a danger to themselves or others.   

As your elected State Representative, I have a responsibility to reach common ground, reasonable and common-sense solutions that respect the Second Amendment and protect the public. For these reasons, and in light of the history of the Colorado Instacheck System, I joined Gov. Hickenlooper in supporting  HB13-1229, which expands the ability of the CBI to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, mentally unstable and domestic violence offenders.  Under the law, the only people who will not be granted access to weapons are people who have been convicted, or are under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year, fugitives, users of controlled substances, undocumented residents, dishonorably discharged veterans or those who have renounced citizenship, people subject to a restraining order for harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner or child, and those convicted of any crime of domestic violence.  In Colorado, we add delinquents who have been adjudicated for a crime that, if committed by an adult, would be a felony.  All law- abiding citizens may possess weapons and will pass the new background checks. 

While some opponents argue that background checks are the first step to registration, I wholeheartedly disagree. As I stated at the hearing, I will never support registration of any firearm or ammunition. It should be noted that the present InstaCheck Program approves 98 percent of guns purchases, and this new statute provides for an appeal and review by a court if there is evidence of a wrongful denial. In 2011 alone, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation prevented almost 6,000 criminals from buying guns. We also recommended an appropriation of 1.5M to make the InstaCheck system more responsive to Colorado gun owners.  Experience has shown that background checks are an important protection that ensures that law abiding citizens can purchase and possess firearms while keeping guns out of the hands of people who, by their conduct, have shown they are not law abiding and not responsible.  Nationally, the total number of criminals and other prohibited purchasers who fail background checks at licensed gun dealers approaches 150,000 per year.  In states that require a background check for every handgun sale, 38 percent fewer women are killed by their domestic partners.  Suicides with a handgun are 49 percent lower in states that require a background check. As Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out in the Heller v. DC decision, “Like most rights, the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”   

The second bill that I voted on, HB13-1224, established magazine capacity limitations of 15 rounds for handguns and rifles and eight rounds for shotguns. The reasoning behind the bill is to restrict access to high-capacity magazines that have been used in 34 mass shootings in recent years and account for up to a quarter of all gun violence and an even higher percentage of fatal police shootings. The rationale was to allow law enforcement, our military and other authorized users to retain this capacity while attempting to keep it out of the hands of mass murderers. The shooting in Tucson that killed six and wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords would have been much more deadly had Jared Loughner not stopped to reload his magazine and been tackled. If James Holmes’s high-capacity magazine didn’t jam at the theater in Aurora, we would have seen an even more deadly outcome. And in Newtown, Connecticut, it’s been reported that 11 children were able to escape when Adam Lanza was reloading a high-magazine weapon. Will this legislation prevent all mass shootings? No. But will this legislation make some of these horrific shootings less deadly? Absolutely. As in all gun bills, the two views are completely polarized. This bill was supported by the Colorado Police Association and a multitude of victims’ rights advocates and was opposed by some of the Sheriffs of Colorado and gun rights advocates. Because I believe that a reasonable limitation on magazine capacity is constitutional, I moved to increase the number of rounds for handguns and rifles to fifteen and shotguns to eight, where it was previously at 10 and five.  I completely understand that there are those who believe that any restriction on the Second Amendment is unconstitutional, but I return to Justice Scalia who stated that reasonable parameters around the second amendment are constitutional. The bill still needs some refinement before it can fully address all of the issues that it raises. I would like to point out that this bill does not restrict in any way, the number of handguns, rifles and shotguns that any citizen may possess, nor does it restrict the number of magazines or the amount of ammunition that any citizen can use to defend themselves.   

As I stated at the outset, we need to have a conversation about guns, the Second Amendment, mental health and public safety. As I stated during my campaign, I will not adhere to absolute ideological views and will seek common ground and common-sense solutions to the matters we face in the State Legislature. I reiterate that I will not support an absolute ban on assault weapons nor any restrictions on the right to possess as many guns and as much ammunition as law abiding citizens require to protect themselves, their families and their property.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
March 13, 2013
Mr McLachlan is wrong on both bills.

Unless there is a central registry there is no possible way to tell whether or not people are complying with background checks. For example, if a private sale takes place how does the government know whether or not a background check has been made unless there is registration?

Of more than 76K background check violations in the current system, a whopping total of 44 were prosecuted. And most states did not make the requisite reports regarding crimes and mental health patients to NCIS. The current system is broken, but Mr McLachlan wants to make it even more expensive, unworkable, and complicated.

Secondly, what is the difference between 2 15 round magazines taped together and a 30 round magazine? Perhaps 1 or 2 seconds to change. It's just one more unenforceable, feel good law that will do nothing to make kids safer. It's like drinking chicken soup to cure leukemia.

He is also quite mistaken about Heller. What Scotus determined was that weaponry in common use was legal. There are millions of 15 plus round magazines out there; it would be difficult to find a more "common" example of weaponry.

Already senators are saying that they will violate this law so that they will have the standing to test it in the courts.

Criminals, apart from theft and straw purchases, can now print these magazines easily on 3D printers. This legislation will do absolutely nothing to keep high capacity magazines away from criminals.

This legislation will have no affect whatsoever on criminals. It will only affect adversely law-abiding citizens. In its present form, for example, it bans the most popular hunting shotgun in the world.

And, it is a backdoor way to ban many common semi-automatic guns. Glocks, Smiths, ARs, Berretas, Sigs commonly come with more than 15 round magazines. It is doubtful that manufacturers will make a special accommodation to an anti-2nd Amendment state. Therefore these guns will be banned by default because it will not be worth it for manufacturers to ship their product to Colorado.

Finally, jobs are going to be lost. Magpul and its suppliers are going elsewhere; at least 58 other manufacturers are going to refuse to sell to Colorado government in protest.

The vast majority of Colorado sheriffs are refusing to enforce this crazy legislation; it won't do any good; and it will make criminals out of tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

Thanks a lot, Mr McLachlan.