State GOP lawmakers stretch debate on gun storage bill, which passes on late-night vote

Law would require Coloradans to lock up firearms

State Rep. Monica Duran
State Rep. Monica Duran, a Democrat from Wheat Ridge, is pictured in the House chamber as Republican lawmakers take turns attempting to pass amendments to her bill, House Bill 21-1106, on March 8, 2021. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)

Republican state lawmakers prolonged debate past 10 p.m. Monday on a controversial bill that would implement storage requirements for firearms.

Members of the minority party introduced and discussed more than two dozen amendments on the floor of the Colorado House only to have all except one soundly rejected by Democrats, who control the chamber by a 17-seat margin. The process began in the late morning of March 8, when House legislators were scheduled to vote on House Bill 21-1106, and did not conclude until nearly 11 hours later when the bill passed on second reading.

Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge and Kyle Mullica of Northglenn, HB-1106 would create a new class 2 misdemeanor for unlawful storage of a firearm.

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“The death rate for guns has surpassed that of automobile accidents for kids,” Mullica said in kicking off discussion on the House floor. “Children are dying because we’re not properly storing our firearms.”

State Rep. Kyle Mullica, a Democrat from Northglenn, represents Colorado House District 34. (Colorado General Assembly photo)

According to a 2020 Child Fatality Prevention System report, suicide was the leading cause of death for Coloradans under the age of 18 from 2014 through 2018. The second most common cause of death was child maltreatment, followed by motor vehicle accidents.

Under HB-1106, a person could be prosecuted for unlawful firearm storage if a young adult could gain access to a firearm without their parent or guardian’s permission; or if someone barred from having a gun lives on the premises where a firearm is not properly stored. To comply with the bill, a firearm would have to be kept on the lawful owner’s person or stored in a way that “a reasonable person would believe to be secure.”

Licensed gun dealers would be required to provide a locking device with each firearm purchase, or they could be subject to a $500 fine. The locking device would need to prohibit someone from using a gun unless they could open the lock with a key, combination or fingerprint verification.

“Federal law already requires firearm dealers to provide a secure storage device with the sale of every handgun,” Duran said on the House floor. “However, the law does not require that gun owners actually use the device or any other best practices to secure their firearms.”

She pointed out that almost all suicide attempts by firearm are successful, while other methods of suicide are nowhere near as deadly.

Anyone affected by a mental health, substance use or emotional crisis can reach Colorado Crisis Services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to be connected with a trained professional. Or find in-person support at a walk-in center.

The only amendment that earned enough Democratic votes to pass was brought by Rep. Terri Carver, a Republican from Colorado Springs. It directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to provide information on its website about programs that allow gun owners to voluntarily and temporarily store their firearms outside the home.

HB-1106 passed its first hurdle March 1, when the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee approved it on a vote of 7-4, along party lines.

On the House floor a week later, one of Republicans’ core arguments against HB-1106 was that locking up guns would impede their owners from reaching them in an emergency self-defense situation.

“If you know about weapons, and you know about hazardous situations, you know you need quick access, easy access,” Rep. Shane Sandridge, a Colorado Springs Republican, argued. “When I was a police officer years ago, I lived in a really rough area. They didn’t pay us very much. And I got threats all the time. … Sometimes I would get home late at night and drop my belt with my gun and lay it by my bed and sleep.”

House Minority Leader Hugh McKean of Loveland said the bill veered dangerously into “government telling you what you need to own.”

“We have a host of people who are on limited incomes, who are now going to be told that you have to have a safe, secure storage for firearms that you’ve owned for your entire life,” he said.

Because the debate on HB-1106 lasted so long, a March 8 hearing for the House State Affairs Committee was postponed despite protests from Republicans, who had hoped to pause debate on the gun storage bill in the early evening so they could hear witness testimony on three elections-related bills brought by GOP lawmakers. Some witnesses had reportedly traveled from far outside Denver to testify on the bills.

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