Colorado House Rep. Tom Sullivan had a gun bill drafted and ready to introduce before the 2020 legislative session even started in January.
But now, his legislation requiring lost or stolen firearms to be reported is headed toward the chopping block, along with nearly 300 other bills claimed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Sullivan, an Aurora Democrat, isn’t giving up on House Bill 1356 or another bill on secure storage of guns because he made a promise to his supporters that he would get them through this year. But he also sees the writing on the wall. With only three weeks to get a budget and essential bills passed, Colorado House Democratic leaders say there isn’t time to debate changes to gun laws this year.
“I had said at the beginning of the session that the session would be a failure if I couldn’t get a single Republican to vote on either of the two bills,” Sullivan said. “It would be more of a failure if I don’t even get either of those bills to see the light of day.”
Sullivan’s bill would have required individuals to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement within 48 hours. The first offense would draw a fine and the second a misdemeanor. It’s a policy that Sullivan said Democrats and Republicans support, but the larger issue of gun control vs. gun rights is one that will continue beyond the pandemic.
“The rest of society has accepted the fact that we have over 100 people die of gun violence and two-thirds of that are death by suicides. They’ve accepted that,” he said. “It’s unacceptable to me.”
Sullivan’s son, Alex, was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting.
Fighting back tears, Sullivan apologized to his supporters in an interview with The Post on Thursday afternoon. He said he needs to — and will — find whatever it takes to convince leaders to put gun legislation at the forefront and introduce it on day one next year if it doesn’t get a vote this year.
Sullivan’s co-sponsor, Rep. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, a Longmont Democrat, said having to kill the bill is “probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life.”
She, like Sullivan, is frustrated that the bill didn’t move forward because it was ready at the beginning of the session.
“My promise is I’ll be back, if I can,” said Jaquez Lewis, a pharmacist by trade. “If I’m able to get elected, this will be one of my first five bills. And this time, we won’t be delayed.”
The gun loss or theft bill, along with the gun storage bill, House Bill 1355, were assigned to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee where they are expected to be postponed indefinitely, or killed.
The secure storage bill would make unlawfully storing a firearm a misdemeanor. This would apply to guns stored where a minor can access them without permission from their parent and those stored in the residence of a person who isn’t allowed to have a firearm. Sponsors say a large component of the bill is educating the public.
House Speaker KC Becker, a Boulder Democrat, said she believes the gun bills are still a priority, but coronavirus “has changed everything.”
“That legislation always draws huge crowds, so that’s an issue,” Becker said. “Also huge resistance. And to get those bills that are starting in the House and that are currently in the House that have a long way to go, all done in a couple weeks, with everything else we have going on, is just challenging.”
House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said in a media briefing Thursday that of 370 bills in the system, only about 88 are moving forward.
Rep. Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, and Rep. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn, are gun owners who said they believe the gun storage bill will save lives.
Duran said the gun debate isn’t going away, even during the pandemic, as gun sales have skyrocketed and crisis calls have increased. Still, she understands putting it on hold and plans to bring it back next year.
“What’s more important is that we do this right and the message is right,” she said.
Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, also a sponsor of that bill, said it’s disappointing to postpone the gun bills, but it makes sense with the pandemic.
“I think both of those bills were very reasonable approaches to try to improve public safety and I look forward to that debate next session,” Hansen said.
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