The Colorado Senate granted preliminary approval of a legislative bill that would require people prohibited under federal law from owning or possessing a firearm due to a domestic violence (DV) convictions and/or protection orders. The Senate must still take a recorded vote on the bill. If it passes, it will then head to the State House of Representatives.
Under the proposed new criminal law, judges would be required to order those convicted of DV criminal matters and anyone subject to a domestic violence related protection orders to surrender their guns within 24 hours. The bill would allow judges to extend the deadline for such forfeiture to 72 hours. Those forced to surrender their firearms under the new law could store the weapons at a local law enforcement agency, a federally licensed arms dealer, or transfer them to someone else through a dealer. The person under the order to surrender their firearms would have to show a receipt documenting the relinquishment to the court within 3 days of the order. The right to possess a firearm could be restored after the DV protection order was lifted.
Essentially, this bill changes nothing that is not already required. Existing Colorado law already requires judges to issue a mandatory protection order on any person charged with domestic violence related crimes. The mandatory protection orders that are already required prohibit possessing a firearm. Additionally, a DV conviction already subjects the offender to federal law prohibiting gun possession and ownership. The only thing that this bill changes is that judges are not required to affirmatively order DV offenders to forfeit their weapons and show proof.
The argument for such a bill is that it will protect victims of domestic violence from offenders. Records show that in 2011, 13 people were shot and killed by DV offenders who were prohibited under federal law to possess a firearm.
Again, this bill does not add anything to that protection that is not already on the books. It only provides for confirmation that the DV offender has done what is already required. Such confirmation will add some certainty to the protection, but will also inundate our courts with new orders that must be issued, executed, and confirmed. The negative of this bill is clearly on Colorado judges who will now be charged with new and additional responsibilities in domestic violence cases. Thus, the question clearly becomes whether or not we as a society are over legislating and bogging down our criminal justice system. Massive new legislation will always lead to the need for more resources. New resources usually end up requiring taxpayer funding. When duties and responsibilities of our criminal justice system are not supported by the appropriate resources, mistakes are made, short cuts are taken, and, ultimately, the reason for, and the purpose of, the legislation is not satisfied.