January 24, 2013

State of the State

That'd be my, the state of course..

Sadly I can’t talk about the happenings in Colorado without mentioning what the feds are doing. Most of y’all know the situation anyway; after Obama got re-elected the panic buying started. After Newtown the panic buying made the previous panic buying look like couponers taking a casual stroll in the general vicinity of the mall. The first round I thought was pure panic – in mid November I’d have said the likelihood of any serious gun control bill getting through the senate was approaching zero. The house was probably approaching negative 1. After that obscene little punk murdered 20 babies, things changed.

The press went full court and the usual anti gunners started doing a fast waltz on tiny little graves before the dirt even settled. In December I’d have agreed with The Anarchangel that nothing would pass, as there were just too many vulnerable congress critters that wouldn’t get re-elected in 2014 if they voted for gun control. This is January. Obama seems to be leaning hard on the blue dogs and that pressure seems to be effective.

Now I still think nothing “major” will pass. Something “moderate” though still burdensome could get through the senate and possibly even the house. I really think that Boehner is the type of ass who’d fold on 20 when the dealer is showing 4. But hopefully the repubs won’t stand for it and won’t let anything get through the house. If however something is tied to a budget deal then all bets is off.

That brings us to Colorado. The dems have the house, senate and governor’s office here. The last few years it was partially divided. For instance a constitutional carry bill got through the house in 2010, but the senate killed it in committee. Now that won’t be an issue, since it’s unlikely the dems would let it come up for a floor vote in the house. There won’t be anything rushed through as there’s a more deliberative process here; each bill in each chamber has to be read on the floor 3 times (”…4 shalt thou not count, neither shalt thou count 2, excepting that thou then proceedeth to 3..”) thanks to the state’s constitution (though this can be waived via a vote of unanimous consent). But with the dems controlling the show this isn’t as much of an impediment as I’d like.

The dems have been talking about various gun control proposals. Nothing has been introduced, except a bill to redefine any firearm as a dangerous weapon (currently intent matters; the proposal would eliminate intent so a firearm just lounging on the couch would be legally dangerous). There have been some who have stated they’d introduce specific legislation, like an AWB or a “universal” background check bill, but as of this writing they’re still working on them.

What I think is going on is the dems here want to see what the feds do – there’s no use in wasting political capital to push through something that’s redundant, as each of our congresscritters can only introduce 5 bills per year. . However that’s just speculation and even if I’m correct I have no idea how long they’ll wait. The legislative session here only lasts 120 days, so the clock is ticking.

If the feds don’t act quickly enough or strongly enough then the dems have a good chance of pushing through some pretty nasty things. I hear rumors that the AWB will be as strict as Difi’s, only without the grandfathering, which would mean confiscation (i.e. mandatory sale to the state). There’s a “universal” background check bill being talked about, and I simply can’t see how that would function without firearm registration. There’s a factory standard magazine capacity ban bill, as well as an “online magazine ban” and a campus carry ban. (Personally I wouldn’t mind if Cosmo was taken off the internets, and last time I tried to lift a campus I threw out my back, but somehow methinks the bill titles refer to something more sinister.)

We actually have a pro-gun lobby here in Colorado; Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. and they have a strategy – an honest to Freyja strategy - as well as a handy page to monitor gun related bills in both chambers. They’ve gotten some folks to introduce pro-gun bills; one would expand concealed carry to government run schools, another to make business that prohibit concealed carry liable for damages in the event of anyone getting hurt by a 3rd party, an expansion of the castle doctrine to include businesses, a background check bypass for concealed carry permit holders, changing the prohibited person category to exclude non violent crimes, and of course constitutional carry.

I have no idea if any of the pro gun bills have a chance of passing. 2 of them are scheduled for committee hearings next week, along with the only anti gun bill proposed so far. What I do know is when you’re ambushed you should attack. Anyone ever hear that the bet defense is a good offense? Well RMGO is doing things right – they’re getting pro gun congress critters to try to push pro gun bills through. If none of them become law it’s still worth it, as it takes some of the energy from the other side that they’d otherwise use to push their anti gun bills through. If the repubs in the federal legislature did this, we’d not be as bad off as we are now.

The local bird cage liner (the Denver Post) has of course been doing what it can to create a sympathetic light for the anti gun bills. One of the reps from Aurora had a son who, along with his girlfriend, was murdered to keep them from testifying in a murder trial. She’s the one pushing hardest for an AWB, though no idea what kind of weapon was used to murder her son. (I assume it was a handgun otherwise the press and the representative would have made a big deal out of it being something that she wants to ban). The murderers were caught and are on death row, so she’s opposed to the proposition to repeal the death penalty and is planning to offer a counter proposal to let voters decide.

Another peculiarity of Colorado – our background checks are run through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and it seems that the background check clock (remember that 3 days that was allegedly the max?) doesn’t start when an FFL calls. It starts when they have someone who can actually start the background check. A few weeks back there were over 12,000 background checks waiting to be processed, and the wait was over 9 days. Now it’s down to 10,000 or so and the wait is merely a week.

The CBI asked for more funds to add staff for the background check center, but that request was denied. So until the backlog is cleared we have a de facto waiting period. The CBI says that adding private transfers to the system would bog things down even worse. So that may help in fighting the “universal” background check idea, though some dems think that'd be a feature, not a bug. Some dems have talked of making gun owners pay a fee (around $10-$12) for their background checks to fund the system, but no commitment to a bill has been made that I’m aware of.

To sum things up I think we’re screwed (and not in the pleasant fashion we all envisioned). There’s a good chance some form of AWB or magazine capacity limit will get through. I’ll be surprised if a “universal” background check bill doesn’t pass with an accompanying registration requirement. Voters in this state voted to require background checks for all sales at gunshows, so I can see the dems crying populism as they push that through both chambers, and the governor suggested it specifically a month ago so he’d sign it.

After the legislature here gets through tap dancing on the Right to arms, then we’ll have the court battles. To sum that up, we’re screwed. Colorado courts typically have looked the other way when a constitutional provision prohibited something they thought was good social policy. Not all judges here are bad, but enough that I doubt the state constitution would be upheld as it went up the chain of appeals. If we go federal constitution, we’re again screwed, as Colorado resides within the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals (which usually isn’t friendly to the 2nd amendment). A SCOTUS decision would be years away and I’m uncertain of how that would play out.

In the meantime, helping RMGO is our best chance of mitigating, if not actually stalling, gun control efforts here. Despite my less than optimistic view of things, all is not lost, and RMGO is effective, efficient and as importantly, principled, so they may be able to block the anti gunners efforts. Also, if you’re in Colorado, writing or calling your rep and senator can’t hurt, even if they’re anti gun.

With politics all things could change tomorrow, and until bills are actually submitted and readable I can only offer speculation. A meek AWB has a better chance of passing than a more stringent one, but whatever odds anyone puts on anything it all boils down to might happen, might not. So keep watching, and figure out what you can do to help.

Posted by Publicola at January 24, 2013 01:24 AM | TrackBack