Proposal for firearm-sale waiting period advances through Colorado House committee
Bill supporters see measure as way to prevent suicide attempts
Democratic Reps. Meg Froelich, left, and Judy Amabile present their bill to establish a waiting period for gun purchases in Colorado to the House State, Civic, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on March 6, 2023. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
The first bill in Democrats’ gun safety legislation package passed through a committee at the Colorado Legislature on Monday after hours of testimony about how a waiting period for firearm purchases could be crucial in reducing suicide by firearms and gun violence overall.
House Bill 23-1219 now heads to the full House to consider. If passed and signed into law, gun sellers would have to wait three days after the necessary background check is started to give a gun over to a purchaser.
Local governments would be able to enact a waiting period longer than three days.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Bill sponsors Reps. Judy Amabile of Boulder and Meg Froelich of Englewood, both Democrats, framed the three days as a possible “cooling off period” for people with a suicidal impulse to get out of their moment of crisis.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, call, text or chat the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. In Colorado, you can contact Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.
“That is the ‘why’ for me behind this bill — it is so we can cut down on gun suicide, cut down on the amount of gun homicide and so more people can still be alive three days later, four days later, five years later,” Amabile said.
For Amabile, the bill is deeply personal. Her son tried to buy a gun five years ago with the intent to die by suicide. Amabile and her husband were able to persuade the gun seller to not go through with the purchase. If he had gotten the gun while he was in that moment of suicidal ideation, Amabile said her son would not have made it out alive.
Five states and Washington, D.C. have a waiting period policy for all firearm purchases on the books, ranging from three days in Illinois and Florida to two weeks in Hawaii.
“We have a lot of very responsible gun owners in our community. This bill isn’t about those folks. This bill is about a proven technique, a proven measure that reduces both homicides and suicides and saves lives,” Froelich said.
Lawmakers considered testimony from many people whose lives have been touched by suicide and other forms of gun violence, who said that a waiting period would have had an impact on their experience.
Research shows that suicide by firearm is deadlier than other methods. Studies also show that waiting periods can reduce suicide and gun violence rates.
Kaycie Artus told lawmakers that her daughter, a teacher in Douglas County who struggled with depression, died by suicide an hour after purchasing a gun. Another witness, Kathy Hagan, testified that after one of her friends’ father stopped taking his medication, he bought a gun in a moment of suicidal ideation and shot himself in the bathroom while his daughter was in the house.
“Many times, the decision to attempt suicide is impulsive,” said Dr. Maya Haasz, a pediatrician representing the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, adding that suicides mostly happen within an hour of consideration. “Increasing waiting times to three days and decreasing access to lethal means when a person is actively suicidal could delay the attempt until the suicide impulse passes.”
Opponents of the bill argued that imposing a waiting period on firearms wouldn’t actually lead to a decrease in suicides, and that lawmakers should focus more on mental health resources to accomplish that goal.
“Someone who is suicidal is going to find a way to commit suicide if he does not get better,” said Ronald Dietz, who shared the story of his own son’s suicide.
Witnesses who testified against the bill, while adamant that they are united in the Democratic bill sponsors’ goal to reduce gun violence and suicide, also argued that it was an infringement on Second Amendment rights and would likely be unenforceable due to the United States Supreme Court’s recent New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Bruen decision.
The boot of government is on our necks. You are burdening us to a point where we can't take it anymore.
– Justin Green, owner of SDS Guns in Colorado Springs
Taylor Rhodes, the executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said that his legal team has already drafted litigation in the event the waiting period legislation is signed into law.
Rhodes has said that his organization plans to mount a large opposition to the suite of firearm regulations set to make their way through the General Assembly this session, though with large Democratic majorities in both chambers, it is unlikely that recruiting opposition witnesses for committee hearings and threatening legal action will have much of an impact on the bills’ success.
Edgar Antillon, the owner of firearm training center Guns for Everyone, said that suicide prevention is a paramount consideration of the gun community and that initiatives around intervention and education are already in place, such as Walk the Talk America, a mental health outreach program for gun owners.
“We have presented alternatives to legal stuff. We believe heavily in education, not legislation,” he said. “What we want to do is continue working with the community.”
Justin Green, the owner of SDS Guns in Colorado Springs, said a waiting period would create a burden for lawful gun owners who drive long distances to buy a gun from his shop.
“As law-abiding gun owners, like most of us, we can’t breathe right now. The boot of government is on our necks. You are burdening us to a point where we can’t take it anymore. I’m here in opposition because of that,” he said.
Rep. Ryan Armagost, a Berthoud Republican, offered an amendment to the bill that would exempt people who have taken firearm training courses and have a concealed carry permit. Amabile, however, responded that the bill sponsors had been advised in the stakeholding process that the state’s concealed carry permit is too easy to obtain, and such an amendment wouldn’t fit into the bill’s purpose. The amendment failed.
The bill passed committee largely along partisan lines. Democratic Rep. Said Sharbini of Thornton voted against it along with the three committee Republicans.
“Absolutely we should protect (people with suicidal ideation.) But I also think we should protect those that have gone above and beyond to prove, through classes and training, proficiency and safety with firearms,” Sharbini said. “I struggle that there are restrictions and rights that are provided to people under the Constitution. Without taking some of those into consideration, it makes it very difficult for me to vote yes on this.”
Lawmakers will consider three other gun-related bills in committee on Wednesday: Senate Bill 23-170 to strengthen the state’s extreme risk protection order, or “red flag,” law; Senate Bill 23-169 to increase the minimum purchasing age to 21; and Senate Bill 23-168 to allow gun violence victims to sue gun manufacturers.
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.