AURORA | Gov. Jared Polis signed two bills into law Monday requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns and safely lock firearms inside their homes.
Democratic lawmakers and the family of one gun violence victim joined Polis in a press conference when he signed the bills into law.
Polis and the lawmakers framed the bills repeatedly as “common sense” laws that impose fines on a minority of “irresponsible” gun owners — those who don’t report a stolen gun or keep firearms within the reach of kids at home.
The bills quickly elicited praise from gun control advocates and condemnation from gun rights groups.
Taylor Rhodes, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said the laws are part of a larger effort to strip gun rights from Coloradans. He told the Sentinel he’s considering whether to challenge the laws in court.
Meanwhile, gun control group Cease Fire Colorado said in a statement the laws “are vital tools to address the epidemic of unintentional child shootings, firearm suicide, and making sure that law enforcement can solve and reduce gun crime.”
State Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Centennial Democrat whose son died in the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting, said the bills are part of larger efforts under the Gold Dome to curb gun violence with new laws.
“We will keep doing that work,” he said. “We will do every single thing we can to make sure we keep our communities safe and stop this public health crisis that is going on in the state of Colorado.”
Polis first signed Senate Bill 78, which slaps gun owners with a fine if they fail to disclose that their firearm was stolen or otherwise went missing within five days.
The fine begins at $25 but spikes to a maximum of $500, and a misdemeanor charge, after a second infraction. The law then directs law enforcement agencies to enter information about the missing gun into a state database.
The law is inspired in part by the 2020 death of Isabella Thallas, a 21-year-old woman shot and killed near Coors Field in Denver. The suspect allegedly used a gun that previously belonged to a Denver Police Department officer, according to 9News.
Harvard University researchers estimated in a 2017 study that, nationally, about 380,000 guns are stolen each year. The study authors said stolen guns are a major source of weapons for juveniles and the black market.
Rhodes said the law creates a “back door gun registry” that could lead to authorities confiscating firearms.
Gun dealers are exempt from the new law.
Polis then signed House Bill 1106, which requires that gun owners safely store firearms in their homes when they’re not in use.
A Colorado gun owner can now be charged with “unlawful storage of a firearm” if a child can access the weapon without parental assistance. That’s a Class 2 Misdemeanor charge carrying up to 12 months in jail time and up to a $1,000 fine.
“Safe” storage includes locking a gun in a gun safe, using a trigger lock that a child can’t crack and other measures. Prosecutors could levy the charge in instances when a child uses a gun, accidentally or not, found at home.
Gun dealers now also have to provide a locking device with a gun sale. Violating that rule could carry an up to $500 fine.
State Sen. Jeff Bridges, a metroplex Democrat, said the law is an “effective” way to reduce suicides, suicide attempts and accidental shootings among children.
From 2009 to 2019, data from the Colorado Violent Death Reporting System found that 312 teens and young adults under 20 years old were involved in suicides by firearms — approximately 31 individuals per year, according to the bill’s fiscal note.