Colorado Consensus on Gun Laws
Broadly supported post-Columbine reforms balance gun rights and gun control.

An urban assault vest from Tactical Gear


The Concealed Carry Act did not disturb the property rights of business owners — if they wish to, they may prohibit concealed carry on their business premises. Fortunately, very few Colorado businesses have done so. But one that did was Century Theaters. Compounding the problem, Century Theaters did not create an actual “gun-free zone” (as some government buildings in Colorado have). Instead, Century Theaters created a pretend gun-free zone. Century Theaters did nothing to prevent armed criminals from entering the theater.

As is common in mass homicides, the killer in this case chose to target victims in a “gun-free” zone — with predictable and horrific results. When armed police finally confronted him, he surrendered quickly. This, too, is common; mass killers tend to be cowards who crumble at the first resistance.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the vest the Aurora killer bought from the website Tactical Gear was not bulletproof. An even if he was wearing a different vest that he procured elsewhere, such a vest does not make the wearer invincible. A shot to the chest can still knock a shooter down and break a rib, providing time for someone to tackle him.

Among the victims in the Century Theater’s “gun-free” zone were members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Had one of them — or any other law-abiding adult — had a handgun on Friday night, the shot might have stopped the killer. Any resistance almost certainly would have saved lives by distracting the killer’s attention.

The Concealed Carry Act was primarily written by the County Sheriffs of Colorado and was based on the permit-issuance policies developed by Larimer County (Fort Collins) sheriff Jim Alderdan. As in most American states, the procedure for issuing a permit is objective in routine cases: Has the applicant provided proper documentation of the required safety training? Did the applicant’s ten-point fingerprints, collected and sent to the FBI and to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, confirm that the applicant does not fit into any of the disqualifying categories?

But, as in many states, Colorado law goes farther and allows the sheriff to make discretionary denials — if the discretion is properly applied. The sheriff may deny a carry-permit application if the sheriff “has a reasonable belief that documented previous behavior by the applicant makes it likely the applicant will present a danger to self or others.” In case of a denial, the applicant can appeal to a court, and the burden of proof is on the sheriff.

This provision is informally called “the naked man rule,” meaning that the sheriff can deny a permit to the man who sits naked in his front yard, muttering about the Martians, but who has a clean record. The County Sheriffs of Colorado deemed it essential that the Concealed Carry Act include the naked-man rule. Yet the Brady Campaign inaccurately claims that Colorado has zero “law enforcement discretion when issuing [concealed-carry] permits.”

The National Rifle Association expressed strong support in the Colorado legislature for the Concealed Carry Act. By contrast, another group, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, fought hard against the Concealed Carry Act, because of the naked-man rule and because of other provisions that failed to meet RMGO’s standards of perfection. Ultimately, not a single pro-gun legislator voted with RMGO. The NRA-endorsed Concealed Carry Act won a bipartisan majority of 46–16 in the House (including almost every Democrat outside Denver and Boulder) and 23–12 in the Senate.

Surprisingly, an article in Politico on July 21 claimed that the Concealed Carry Act was written to RMGO’s specifications. Exactly the opposite is true: To help the Concealed Carry Act become law, the NRA had to defeat RMGO just as much as it had to defeat the Colorado affiliates of national anti-gun organizations such as the Brady Campaign.


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