Gun usage big part of new session

DENVER - Legislators have introduced the first set of bills responding to mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut, but they are not what gun-control advocates want.

Out of five gun-related bills, four are from Republicans who seek to expand the right to carry or use guns.

Gun-control advocates - mostly Democrats - have yet to introduce their major proposals.

Gov. John Hickenlooper asked legislators to consider universal background checks during his State of the State address, even for private sales, and President Barack Obama made a similar proposal just days ago.

But the first set of proposals points to a culture clash in the Legislature between people who want more gun restrictions and those who think more guns lead to more safety.

A pair of Senate bills seek to allow more guns in schools and private businesses. Senate Bill 9 would allow people with concealed-weapons permits to bring handguns into a school, subject to approval by the local school board.

And SB 62 exposes businesses to liability if they forbid guns and don't provide at least one armed guard per 50 people.

Sen. Kent Lambert, sponsor of SB 62, said his bill is a response to the massacre at the Aurora movie theater, where a no-guns policy was in place.

"James Holmes stalked this place," said Lambert, R-Colorado Springs. "Any terrorist is going to find the softest target he can."

Several victims and bereaved family members are suing the theater for inadequate security. Lambert said his bill would put other business owners at ease by holding them liable for shootings only if they banned guns and had lax security.

But the senator whose district includes the theater doesn't think much of Lambert's bill.

"I think the idea is absurd, to be honest," said Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora. "The fact that you would force a business to be armed frankly violates private-property rights."

It could also increase costs by forcing businesses to hire guards, she said. And not everyone wants to be surrounded by guns while shopping, Carroll said.

In the House, an old bill that has failed several times before is back. House Bill 1048, the so-called "Make My Day Better" bill, would allow business owners or employees to use deadly force against intruders. Colorado already has a Make My Day law that allows people to kill intruders in their homes.

Gun-control advocates are still researching their proposals and probably will introduce bills in a few weeks, Carroll said.

"We're so heavily in research. We're trying to be really intelligent about what we're doing," she said.

The lone Democratic bill so far comes from freshman Rep. Mike Foote of Lafayette. Foote, a former prosecutor in Durango, wants to expand the definition of "deadly weapon" to include unloaded guns.