Enhanced background check bill to close Charleston loophole faces its first committee test

Colorado State Capitol
Posted at 5:54 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 19:54:22-04

DENVER — Less than one week after Colorado lawmakers unveiled a package of gun bills in response to the Boulder King Soopers shooting, the first bill faced its first big committee test Wednesday.

House Bill 1298 changes background checks in three ways. First, it closes the so-called Charleston loophole that exists under federal law, which allows for a licensed gun dealer to transfer a firearm to a buyer if they have not received their background check back within three days.

The bill would establish a requirement for a licensed gun dealer to obtain approval from the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) prior to transferring the firearm.

Additionally, the bill would prohibit someone who is convicted of violent misdemeanor crime from buying a firearm for five years. Those crimes include third-degree assault, menacing, sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, child abuse, a crime against an at-risk person, harassment, bias-motivated crimes, cruelty to animals, possession of an illegal weapon or unlawfully providing a firearm to a juvenile.

The bill allows for an appeals process and gives the CBI 60 days to conduct a review when an appeal is filed and come to a final decision.

It also allows CBI to block the transfer of a firearm to someone who has not been given a final disposition in a criminal proceeding for an offense where the prospective buyer would be banned from purchasing the gun if convicted.

For Joel Loomis, this bill is personal; Loomis is a part-time employee at the Boulder King Soopers. He normally works in the front as a cashier. He was in class when the shooting happened and found out from social media.

Loomis logged onto a live stream someone was sharing from the scene, and that’s when he saw the body of his coworker Rikki Olds.

“You don’t know what it’s like unless you know somebody who was killed in a mass shooting. It’s not like other deaths we experience because it’s murder. It’s brutal. It seems random,” he said.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Loomis, like many others, went through a full range of emotions and is still coming to terms with the tragedy. He headed into the state Capitol Wednesday for his first time ever to testify in support of the bill.

“The way that I’ve talked with grieving is trying to bring about change, because the other hard part to deal with in the aftermath is knowing someone could do the same thing again. They could do it today, they could do it tomorrow,” he said. “It’s personal for me this time. And it just makes it even worse, but this guy... there were so many reasons why he shouldn’t have had that gun.”

Loomis knows new laws won’t be able to prevent every mass shooting or completely stop guns from getting into the wrong hands, but he believes that these bills are a good start and could help curb the gun violence.

“I’m glad that I can be a voice for change and potentially saving lives,” Loomis said.

Others disagree with the premise of the bill and believe it could prevent legal owners from purchasing firearms.

Taylor Rhodes, the executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, says gun shops have already closed the Charleston loophole on their own without legislation so he sees that portion of the bill as being unnecessary.

“That’s already being done here. Gun shops across the state of Colorado won’t transfer after that three days simply because they don’t want to get in trouble with their insurance,” Rhodes said. “Companies will not allow them to transfer it because it’s an additional liability.”

During the height of the COVID pandemic, there was a surge of people trying to buy firearms, which caused a long delay in background checks. Some background checks took nearly two weeks to come back.

He believes this type of legislation could cause delays in the background check system.

“This type of legislation doesn’t do anything but further restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens,” he said.

Rhodes has no empathy for the Boulder shooter; he calls the shooter a domestic terrorist and he believes that even with tighter gun laws, if the shooter was determined to get a gun he would have.

“This bill needs to be killed. Clearly the bill sponsors did not think this one through. It was a rush out of emotion. We’re all extremely sad about what happened, but infringing on law-abiding Coloradans rights is not the solution,” he said.

Instead, Rhodes would like to see the gun bills recently introduced scrapped and for other legislation to be introduced that would allow for constitutional carry, get rid of gun-free zones and offer more mental health reforms.

More than 40 supporters and opponents signed up to testify at Wednesday’s hearing. The other bills will face committee hearings in coming weeks as the state tries to determine whether these policies are the right ones for Colorado.