By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation would continue conducting firearm background checks, known as Insta-Check, under a bill that passed out of the House yesterday.
Gun rights enthusiasts have blasted Insta-Check as being unnecessary and costly, while gun control activists praise the state background check as a way to prevent gun-related tragedies in Colorado.
House Bill 1391 would extend the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s Insta-Check program indefinitely.
The measure now moves to the Senate after passing out of the House by a vote of 41-23.
“I don’t think we can afford to wait until another violent act to protect citizens and victims of domestic violence from preventable crimes,” said a statement from bill sponsor Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton. “This bill strikes a balance between protecting public safety and protecting the rights of gun buyers.”
The Insta-Check program scans more than six local and federal databases for background information on prospective gun buyers. The state annually spends about $1.7 million implementing the program.
Opposers of Insta-Check, like Jon Caldera of the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank, believe the state should save that $1.7 million by handing over background check duties to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“I think that it’s something that given the tight economic times we should think about,” he said.
However, gun control groups believe $1.7 million is a small price to pay for making Colorado a safer state.
Supporters of Insta-Check believe the program is more thorough than the FBI’s background check. For instance, the Insta-Check program forbids people with protective orders filed against them and certain defendants going through Colorado’s judicial system from purchasing a firearm, while the FBI’s background check does not. Statistical data indicates that approximately 30 percent of denials that CBI has made using Insta-Check would have been missed by the FBI, according to a press release issued by the Colorado Senate Democrat office.
But gun rights activists believe the program “adds one more level of bureaucracy and puts the government in front of citizens.” Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners believes that citizens should not be presumed guilty until they prove themselves innocent.
“Gun control proponents want to require background checks prior to purchase, it should be their job to find reasons to deny and prove that the citizen is ineligible, and not vice versa,” he said.
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 Brown disagrees that Insta-Check makes Colorado safer. He argued that people who want to buy a gun could still easily obtain one on the black market, and that all the state is doing is reducing freedoms for its citizens.
Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, is sponsoring the bill in the Senate. Both gun control advocates and gun rights proponents expect the measure to pass through the Democrat-controlled Legislature.