Bill on gun storage in cars moves forward in Colorado Statehouse

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A display case of pistols at Hammer Down Firearms in Wheat Ridge.

Colorado Democrats are moving a bill forward aimed at reducing the number of stolen firearms in vehicles.

House Bill 1348 would require firearms in unattended vehicles to be stored in a locked hard-sided container and out of plain sight. Failure to do so could result in a $500 fine.

“On average, at least one gun is stolen from a car every 15 minutes from cars,” said Democratic Rep. Lorena Garcia from Adams County, one of the bill’s main sponsors. She said those guns often get diverted to the illegal market which makes them particularly dangerous. She said cars parked at residences and driveways are the most common source of stolen firearms.

“It's no secret that the majority of assaults and murders are done from a stolen gun, but the question is ‘where do these stolen guns come from?’” Garcia said. “Unfortunately, not every city reports gun thefts, but those that do demonstrate that gun thefts from cars are the largest source of illegal guns in our society.”

The measure has some carve-outs for those working and living on farms and ranches, active-duty military personnel, and law enforcement.

Republicans called the bill onerous and claimed it wouldn’t deter criminals. 

GOP Rep. Matt Soper of Delta said the proposal requires more than should be expected for a reasonable and prudent gun owner.

“If you have a firearm and you have it locked in your car out of view, that should be sufficient to keep it safe and secure,” said Soper during the House floor debate. “To say that it needs to also be in a hard-sided locked container also is quite troubling.”

GOP Rep. Ryan Armagost of Berthoud doesn’t see it as enforceable and questioned how many people leave a firearm unattended in plain sight. 

“For me, being a gun owner myself, I don't want improperly stored firearms in my vehicle or in my home,” he said. “This isn't something I think that you're going to find any gun owner doing.”

Democrats did adopt a Republican amendment to the bill that would exempt a gun owner from being fined if they report their firearm stolen, even if it isn’t properly stored. 

Republicans also attempted to exempt several counties including El Paso County from the proposed state law, but those amendments failed. 

“El Paso County has every bit of a need for secure firearms if anywhere else,” Democratic Rep. Stephanie Vigil of Colorado Springs said. “We are not that special in this regard. We are special in many other ways.”

Republicans also criticized Democrats for defeating a bipartisan bill earlier this session that would have increased penalties for firearm theft. Ultimately enough Democratic members on the House Judiciary Committee weren’t convinced it would act as a deterrent. 

The safe storage in vehicles proposal still needs a final House vote before it can move to the Senate.