By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
One local libertarian leader has an idea that would save the state more than $1 million a year — have the federal, not state, government run background checks for people buying firearms.
Independence Institute President Jon Caldara is proposing that the state eliminate the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s Insta-Check program, which scans more than six local and federal databases for background information on prospective gun buyers. Caldara thinks the state should instead rely on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s background check. Handing over background check duties to the FBI would save the state annually about $1.7 million.
“Given the terrible budget issues that we have in the state, it’s one of those great things you can cut,” said Caldera. “The question needs to be why the state is doing this if the feds will do this for free.”
But supporters of the Colorado Bureau Investigation’s Insta-Check program say the department’s $1.7 million budget dramatically improves safety for Colorado. The background check conducted by the state is more thorough than the FBI’s background check, they say. For instance, the Insta-Check program forbids people with protective orders filed against them from purchasing a firearm, while the FBI’s background check does not search for protective orders filed in the state’s judicial system.
“When it comes to public safety in Colorado, I think it’s clear that CBI handling it is what keeps these kinds of firearms from people who shouldn’t have them,” said CBI Spokesman Lance Clem.
Colorado handed over background check duties to the FBI in early 1999. A few months later, the FBI approved Simon Gonzales for a firearms purchase, even though a Colorado court had issued a domestic violence restraining order against him. Gonzales in turn used the gun to kill his three daughters in Castle Rock.
Then Republican Gov. Bill Owens and the Legislature proceeded to reinstate the Colorado Bureau of Investigation as the “Point of Contact” for the FBI background checks.
“I applaud the Legislature for adopting this bill which will help in preventing individuals who are prohibited by law from obtaining firearms,” said Owens at the time.
But Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, believes the Insta-Check program “adds one more level of bureaucracy and puts the government in front of citizens.” Brown believes that the state background check is a waste of time and resources because people who want a gun can get one on the black market if they are turned down by the state.
“It pushes the sale out into the darker area where it might have taken place in the light of day,” he said.
Caldara and Brown also expressed frustration about how long the CBI Insta-Check program can take. In the months prior to Barack Obama becoming president, an increase in gun sales led to wait times exceeding an hour.
“It’s not an Insta-check program at all, Insta-check would imply that something happens in an instant,” said Caldara. “It’s a Long-Waste-Your-Time-Check program.”
But Clem pointed out that those hour-plus wait times were an anomaly. Last month’s average wait time, for example, was under 15 minutes.
Tom Mauser thinks a small wait time and $1.7 million price tag for the state is a small price to pay for making the state safer. Mauser’s son was killed in the Columbine massacre, and the father has become one of the state’s leading gun control advocates.
“It is worth the investment to make sure (guns) are not going to the wrong person,” he said.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters