Gun owners would be required to report lost or stolen firearms under Colorado bill

Republican opponent says law would make criminals out of victims

Potential buyers try out guns which are displayed on an exhibitor's table during the Nation's Gun Show on Nov. 18, 2016 at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Thursday was a late night for lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who didn’t vote on a firearm regulation bill until around 11 p.m.

Senate Bill 21-78 would create reporting requirements for Colorado gun owners whose firearms are lost or stolen. If someone did not tell law enforcement about their firearm being lost or stolen, within five days of learning it was gone, the person would be guilty of a petty offense and required to pay a $25 fine.

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The offense would become a class 3 misdemeanor if the person failed to report firearm loss or theft more than once. Such a crime entails a jail sentence of up to six months, a fine of up to $750, or both.

SB-78 — which passed the committee by a vote of 3 to 2 — is sponsored by Sens. Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Boulder County and Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge, both Democrats. It aims to reduce gun violence caused by people using lost or stolen firearms.

Sonya Jaquez Lewis
State Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, a Democrat from Boulder County, represents Colorado Senate District 17. (Colorado General Assembly photo)

“Responsible gun ownership starts with knowing where your guns are,” Jaquez Lewis said in a statement. “This bill will require that lost or stolen firearms are reported quickly and efficiently to law enforcement, so they can track down and prevent illegally obtained guns from being trafficked and causing subsequent harm.”

The bill also adds a requirement for law enforcement agencies in Colorado, which would need to enter information about lost or stolen firearms into the National Crime Information Center database and report the incidents to the Colorado Bureau of Information.

The Colorado Springs Police Department is pushing for a change to the bill that would say law enforcement agencies only need to report the incidents when they have jurisdiction — because the Colorado Springs Police Department could only report information about a firearm that was lost or stolen in Colorado Springs, according to police spokesperson Lt. James Sokolik.

In an email, Sokolik also said the NCIC database “requires that all mandatory fields are completed before a firearm can be listed.”

“To address those issues, we are suggesting that the bill be amended along the lines that the law enforcement agency with primary jurisdiction over the location of the stolen or lost firearm shall enter the information into NCIC if all required mandatory fields for reporting have been provided to the law enforcement agency,” he wrote.

Sokolik said he didn’t think Colorado Springs police would have any issues with SB-78 if those changes were made.

Senate Republicans opposed the bill due to a lack of evidence that reporting requirements would reduce gun violence, and because of the criminal penalties for gun owners who violated it.

“The idea that by being a victim you could also become a criminal is quite fascinating,” Sen. Bob Gardner, a Republican from Colorado Springs, said in a statement. “Reporting a firearm as stolen won’t save a life — but failing to do so may make a criminal out of everyday Coloradans if this bill becomes law. Yet again, Democrats prioritize criminals over crime victims, and in this case, go on to make criminals out of crime victims.”

Gardner and Sen. John Cooke, a Greeley Republican, voted against the bill in the Judiciary Committee. The three Democrats outnumbered them, sending the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

While SB-78 drew around two hours of witness testimony, the preceding bill was the main reason for the committee’s late night at the Capitol. Lawmakers heard testimony for seven hours on the previous bill, aimed at reducing jail populations.

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