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News & Editorials

Colorado "Shall Issue" Concealed Carry Bill Has Holes

by Angel Shamaya

Colorado SB 01-83, introduced by Sen. Ken Chlouber (R), clearly states "a sheriff shall issue a permit to carry a concealed handgun to any applicant who..." followed by the criteria by which one can jump through various hoops to exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms. At present in Colorado, the discretionary powers exercised by sheriffs when issuing concealed carry so-called "permits" is often abused -- denying lawful, decent women the right to carry concealed in order to defend themselves against rapists and murderers.

Though we prefer Vermont-style carry, we have supported some concealed carry shall issue setups as steps in the right direction. While states are restoring their rights, some states have done a good deal of good by disproving the "blood in the streets" fallacy surrounding concealed carry. Hundreds of thousands of people have been "permitted" to carry in over 30 states, and the blood in the streets didn't increase; it decreased.

But this bill has some problems. Thinking Coloradoan gunowners should harbor some concerns about the qualifications for receiving a permit under SB 0183. Page 7 of the state's .pdf file containing the text of the bill goes over qualifications. Among them, these ones stand out as potential holes -- some worse than others (presented in the order found in the text of the bill):

1) "...does not have any unresolved felony charges..."

Could there be people falsely charged with a felony denied their right to self defense? And what of the cases where someone is charged and later acquitted? How long can we deny citizens their rights when they are not guilty? A conviction by a jury of peers is one thing, but we know too many people who've been charged wrongly and later found not guilty. Some of those situations involved not only capricious but egregious people and circumstances that led up to the arrest and "felony charge."

And someone who has criminal intent to do bodily harm with a gun they carry concealed is not going to stop simply because they were denied a "permit." The above will only block good people from protecting themselves, period.

2) "...has not been adjudicated a juvenile delinquent...for an act that would have constituted a felony had the applicant been an adult...within the ten year period immediately preceding the application..."

A guy who got in a fight at the park when he was 14 and did a complete turnaround on such behavior should not be punished for having done so -- 9 years later. That is, in effect, double-jeopardy -- and ex post facto denial of rights. Doesn't wash with me. If he doesn't have a felony on his record now, give him a permit. Another concern over this one involves non-violent felonies that occurred during teenage years. Ex-president Clinton (God, I love saying that!) broke drug laws, yet we're supposed to support the stripping of a young person's rights for, say, getting caught with a bag of marijuana some 9 years earlier? Not me. I don't support that, and I never will. It stinks.

3) "Is not the subject of any valid restraining order..."

Does this mean that just because a restraining order was sworn by an estranged wife or girlfriend (or boyfriend) -- without a trial or a fair hearing -- that a citizen must go defenseless? No sale. The use of capricious restraining orders by disgruntled soon-to-be-ex spouses is a hole, and a big one. Trial by jury was installed in the political system for a reason. The process of obtaining the permit is lengthy enough that a person who was intent on doing someone harm could have already done it, and a bad person isn't going to refrain from carrying concealed because of a piece of paper anyway. Stripping good guys of a right in a wrongheaded (read: failed) attempt to make the bad guys not carry is a great big joke.

4) Subsection (l), Page 9, Line 16 also explains how someone convicted of two DWI's within the last 10 years would be denied the right to carry, as well. Seems a bit extreme, to me, especially if the guy has been sober for the last 9 of those 10 years. People who've had two DWI's in Colorado, say, 9 years ago, are still allowed to drive in most cases. And more people by far die by car than by gun. This is nothing more than gun control, another stripping of rights, and has no support from me whatsoever.

5) Page 10, Line 24 also gives the sheriff discretion to deny the permit if he "has a reasonable belief that documented previous behavior by the applicant makes it likely the applicant will pose a danger to self or others," then "the sheriff may deny the permit."

The whole point of shall issue is to create shall issue. I understand the reasoning behind letting a sheriff have discretion -- legitimate discretion -- but I'd like to see "documented behavior" defined. If "documented behavior" means, for example, working as an outspoken gun rights activist including criticizing that same sheriff harshly for denying permits in the past, that doesn't cut the mustard over here. What is "documented behavior"? And by what criteria is a sheriff's "reasonable belief" established?

6) Page 11, Line 3 begins even more languaging giving sheriffs the same discretionary powers Colorado gunowners have suffered under for far too long. The text in question (Page 10, Line 7) is:

"Following issuance of a permit, if the issuing sheriff has reason to believe that a permittee...[doesn't matter what goes here to make this point]...the sheriff shall suspend the permit until such time as the matter is resolved and the issuing sheriff determines..."

Some sheriffs in Colorado aren't keen on issuing permits. For them, if someone wants to carry, that could be "a reason to believe" they are a criminal, a bad person, etc. Some Colorado sheriffs are one major reason shall issue is needed. Currently, Colorado has a "can issue, if hired public servants feel like bestowing the right of the people to the people" permit system. The abuse of arbitrary "discretion" by sheriffs is part of what must be rooted out -- in law -- since a number of them disregard the United States Constitution's "shall not be infringed" wording.

My questions regarding this particular line of thinking are as follows:

  • By what criteria do we qualify an anti-concealed carry sheriff's "reason to believe"?
  • What enumerated penalties are sheriffs willing to put into law -- as checks and balances should they be caught abusing such wide "discretion"?
  • What ways could this be abused by anti-rights sheriffs?
  • And who is going to stop them from abusing their discretionary powers?


This bill is a watered down version of an already watered down constitutional protection. Having to ask the public servants hired to protect our rights if we can protect ourselves in public places is in itself an abomination. Putting at least one or two of the above in this bill is only inviting more problems. I hope some of the folks at Firearms Coalition of Colorado, Colorado Sports Shooting Association, Independence Institute, Colorado Freedom, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and anyone else working on this bill will work to tighten it up before it becomes law. If not, I predict that a number of the same current problems regarding concealed carry (so called) "permits" will not be going away -- and you'll be coming back again to do it right at a later date.

In fact, after going through SB 0183 twice, if I lived in Colorado, I'd oppose it unless some modifications were made -- to keep the fire alive to get a much better law put in place that protects your right to protect yourself.

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Liberty has never come from government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance. Woodrow Wilson, May 9, 1912, Address, New York Press Club.

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