Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed two bills into law Monday that both aim to reduce gun violence.
One, known as the “Isabella Joy Thallas Act” requires people to report lost and stolen firearms. Thallas was a 21-year-old Denver woman who was murdered with a stolen rifle as she and her boyfriend were walking his dog. Her sister, brother, grandmother and mother watched Polis sign the bill into law.
“It's not just about her,” said her mother, Ana Thallas. She said she’s worried about children staying safe in schools, grocery stores, and shopping malls. “The gun violence is out of control. Somebody has to do something, but what saddens me and hurts the most is that it takes a mother of a murdered daughter to stand up and speak and try and make a change and a difference in this state.”
The new law only carries a minimal fine, so backers hope its true impact will be in raising awareness through education and outreach.
“We talk a lot about responsible gun ownership, but we don't want to take accountability when it comes to really defining what that is in Colorado. We’re making a clear definition of what that is today,” said Democratic sponsor state Rep. Leslie Herod.
The other bill signed by Polis, House Bill 1106, requires people to safely store their firearms. Failure to do so could result in a fine between $250 and $1,000. Licensed gun dealers would also be required to provide a locking device with new gun purchases.
“Most gun owners, we store our guns safely,” said Democratic state Rep. Monica Duran, one of the bill’s main sponsors. “But it's changing the mindset, right? For those who own a firearm, to make sure that they're storing it in a place where a child can not get ahold of it or anyone who shouldn't have access, doesn't.”
Democratic state Sen. Jeff Bridges sees the new law as a narrow policy, one aimed at preventing accidental shootings and suicides in particular.
“We have one of the highest teen suicide rates in the entire country. And we know that even though 4 percent of suicidal acts are done with firearms, that 4 percent of attempts accounts for 40 percent of deaths," Bridges said. "If we can reduce the number of attempts using a firearm, we can have a dramatic impact on cutting the number of teens who died by suicide here in Colorado.”
The measures passed almost entirely along party lines. State Rep. Donald Valdez was the only Democrat to join with Republicans to vote no on the safe storage proposal. Valdez did back the lost and stolen reporting requirement.
Opponents say the laws take away constitutional rights and are a slippery slope to even more Second Amendment infringements. Some are also concerned that requiring a gun to be stored in a certain way won’t save lives and could actually make it more difficult for people to defend themselves.
“That decision is best left to the individual,” said Republican state Rep. Patrick Neville during one of the debates on the House floor. “When we mandate this we are denying their defense at a crucial time when they need it most.”
These proposals were already making their way through the Democratic-controlled state legislature prior to the March mass shooting at a King Soopers in Boulder. Legislative leaders say different proposals to strengthen background checks and other possible loopholes in the wake of the shooting are also in the works, although nothing has been introduced yet.