I’m a proud resident of Colorado and a proud gun owner of nearly 50 years. I’m a gun owner who fully believes that the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms but that right comes with responsibilities.
Our state legislature is moving rapidly closer to making a final decision on whether to pass a lifesaving bill to establish an extreme risk law. Some people are using fear to claim that this bill is just a cheap stunt to take away guns.
I’m here to tell you that HB 1177, the Deputy Zackari Parrish III Violence Prevention Act, is a reasonable law supported by a majority of people in Colorado, and that the longer we wait to do something about gun violence, the more lives we put at risk.
Our state has felt the pain of far too many gun violence tragedies. There are the scenes of terror from a school in Columbine and a movie theater in Aurora that the country will never forget.
And then there are the stories that rarely make the news, those of lives lost every day to gun violence — in accidents, in suicides, in shootouts. How could this have happened, and how can we stop these killings?
HB 1177 is an important step in this direction. This commonsense measure gives our courts and law enforcement the tools to temporarily remove guns from individuals that pose a significant risk to themselves or others.
As a gun owner, I understand the concerns some have with legislation like this bill, and the fearmongering that is all too common when any gun safety legislation is introduced.
I often hear people saying that any attempt to address gun violence is “unconstitutional” and runs contrary to the rights bestowed in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
To my friends who make this argument, I urge them to look no further than the preamble of the very same Constitution. Over the past half-century, more Americans have died from gun violence than in all the wars America has ever engaged in combined.
This tragic and astronomical number, one that continues to grow each year, represents an utter failure in ensuring “domestic tranquility.” We can do better. We must pass stronger laws that promote responsible ownership.
Consider that in the year since the Colorado Senate failed to pass similar legislation, nearly 100 people across the country died each day from a gunshot wound. Each second wasted debating the politics of this bill leads to more lives lost in communities across our state.
The policies in the bill are not controversial — some estimates have shown nearly four in five households in the state support them. And this isn’t just people who couldn’t tell the difference between buckshot and birdshot. The same data shows 77 percent of gun-owning households support this bill.
But passage isn’t assured. As we get down to the wire on the vote, new voices are raising false alarms. Some locally elected sheriffs in Colorado have declared they’ll refuse to enforce these laws.
While that might generate a good headline and give them their five minutes of fame, I’d remind them decisions about what is and what is not constitutional are not theirs to make. Their job is to protect their communities, and HB 1177 will help them do exactly this.
These laws have already been proved effective in states that have enacted them. In Maryland, for example, a judge ordered the removal of guns in 148 out of 302 cases — four cases included threats made to schools. Other states, like Indiana and Massachusetts, have seen significant drops in their suicide rates since passing their own extreme risk laws.
We can be a part of this progress. The Colorado House has already passed this bill. It’s time for the Colorado Senate to do the same and get this to the governor’s desk.
It’s time for our state to show the rest of the country that our state passes laws that promote responsible gun ownership and save lives. That’s something we should all be able to get behind.
Mike Heyka, a founding member of Colorado Gun Owners for Safety, has been a gun owner for nearly 50 years.