After the Columbine High School murders, Colorado enacted eight specific gun-law reforms. Three of these reforms are examples of what people usually call “gun control,” and five of them are in the “gun rights” category. But to many Coloradoans, all eight of the measures are cohesive and consistent. They are all based on the same principles: Guns in the wrong hands are very dangerous, and guns in the right hands protect public safety. Colorado strengthened its laws to make it harder for the wrong people to acquire guns and simultaneously strengthened laws to remove obstacles to the use and carrying of firearms by law-abiding citizens. As a whole, the laws embody a compromise that enjoys broad public support; they settled a gun-policy debate that had raged in Colorado for 15 years. The Colorado consensus has already saved lives.
Concealed Carry Act
The most important element of the Colorado reforms is the Concealed Carry Act, which became law in 2003. This law strongly protects the right of law-abiding adults to carry handguns for the defense of self and others. Forty other states have similar laws.
The reform has so far thwarted at least one massacre. In December 2007, a man murdered two teenagers at the Youth with a Mission training center in the Denver suburbs. He then drove south to Colorado Springs and attacked the New Life megachurch in Colorado Springs. He killed two people in the parking lot and then entered the building, carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Fortunately, a volunteer security guard for the church, Jeanne Assam, was carrying a licensed handgun, and she quickly shot the attacker. According to Pastor Brady Boyd, “she probably saved over 100 lives.”
Elsewhere in the United States, three school shootings have been stopped because teachers or other responsible adults had firearms: Edinboro, Penn.; Pearl, Miss.; and the Appalachian Law School in Grundy, Va.
Colorado law allows government buildings to be declared “gun-free zones,” but Colorado law insists that when a government promises a gun-free zone, the government must keep the promise: Licensed carry may be forbidden in a government building only if all entrances to the building are controlled, and if the public entrances have metal detectors manned by armed guards.
Under Colorado law, therefore, government entities may not simply post a no guns sign and leave law-abiding, licensed citizens defenseless against violent criminals. Earlier this year, in a unanimous decision, the Colorado supreme court ruled that the University of Colorado may not forbid licensed carry on its campuses. All the other public universities in Colorado had already been complying with the law by allowing licensed carry, and there have not been any problems.
K–12 schools have special restrictions: Licensed carry is allowed only in automobiles on school property, not in buildings or on sports fields. Although this approach is not ideal, it does allow the possibility that in case of an attack, an adult could retrieve a firearm from an automobile and then confront the attacker. That is how lives were saved in Pearl, Miss.