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House committee clears bill for Colorado concealed carry training standards

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Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) A bill that would substantially rework Colorado’s concealed carry permit training made it through its first committee hearing Tuesday as sponsors and supporters framed it as a common-sense measure for responsible gun possession and opponents argued it would create a burden on people exercising their constitutional rights.

Gun owners would need to complete an in-person class, pass a written test and show competence when using their firearm to apply for a concealed carry permit with their local sheriff under the proposal.

“This policy is key to make sure our concealed carry permits are well-regulated and ensures that those applying for these first time-permits or renewals understand the importance in safety of concealed carry,” House Majority Leader Monica Duran, a Wheat Ridge Democrat, said.

Sponsors hope the bill will establish a minimum standard for concealed carry instruction.

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“Right now, we have training courses all over the state of Colorado that have varying aspects. We’re trying to bring the right amount of uniformity to make sure there is a core amount of education and training that happens. At the same time, we’re not trying to be over prescriptive,” Democratic Rep. Marc Snyder of Manitou Springs said.

House Bill 24-1174 sets specific curriculum and structure guidelines for concealed carry permitting classes. Right now, the structure and length of those classes are up to individual instructors — some are just a few hours and not all include shooting time. Under the bill, an in-person class would need to be at least eight hours long and cover safe handling, storage, shooting fundamentals, state and federal firearm laws and confrontation management.

That class would also require a live-fire exercise so prospective permit holders know what it feels like to actually shoot a gun. Students would need to use at least 50 rounds of ammunition and achieve at least 70% accuracy score during that exercise.

Students would also need to score at least 80% on a written exam.

A new two-hour refresher class with the live-fire exercise and written exam would be required for a permit renewal. Right now, people just need to submit a renewal application and fee and aren’t required to undergo additional training.

The bill would give oversight power to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

With this card, the only thing you can assume about me is that I paid some money to get a certificate and to get a background check done.

– Mary Parker, on her concealed carry permit class

Committee members listened to nearly four hours of testimony Tuesday, as firearm-related legislation tends to mobilize activists on both sides of the debate to show up at the Capitol.

Opponents contended that nearly all concealed carry permit instructors already meet the minimum standards set forth in the bill and were wary of giving the state government power to standardize an industry that is currently largely the purview of local sheriffs.

“This bill is basically a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. We hold ourselves self-accountable,” said William Peterson, who owns a gun education center that serves the Front Range. “The sheriff’s offices are doing good control of us as well, taking a look at us (to see) if our class is up to par.”

The bill would not affect how county sheriffs process and approve permits.

Others worried that enacting concealed carry instruction standards could inadvertently create a “race to the bottom effect” where gun owners don’t feel obligated to seek additional education after they meet the minimum requirements.

Additionally, witnesses argued that a beefed-up class requirement could become a barrier to people who couldn’t block off an entire day or afford a higher cost associated with longer instruction.

While some people, including firearms instructors themselves, testified about the high quality of classes currently offered in the state, others said their own experience felt insufficient.

“With this card, the only thing you can assume about me is that I paid some money to get a certificate and to get a background check done,” said Mary Parker, who spoke about her experience taking a concealed carry permit class. “In the first class I took, the instructor gave us a book and told us which sentences to highlight because they were on the test. At the end of the course, we had an open book test — which we graded ourselves — turned them in, and got our certificates.”

Multiple gun bills

The bill was amended Tuesday to address some Republican concerns, but ultimately the committee still advanced it on a party-line vote.

It includes amendments that allow the eight hours of instruction to be spread out over multiple days and clarify that courses need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It’s good to see that there’s a level of discussion on bills like this, where there’s clear issues that we have, for those of us that are in the field of instruction,” Republican Rep. Ryan Armagost of Berthoud said. “I agree with the testimony we heard tonight that this bill is going in the wrong direction of what we need for concealed carry, especially as it applies to … the tried and true program county sheriffs have had.”

HB-1174 is one of a few firearm-related bills introduced this Legislative session. One would prohibit carrying a gun — concealed or otherwise — in a handful of so-called “sensitive” spaces. Another would give money to the CBI to investigate illegal gun purchase attempts.

On Tuesday, a bill that would ban the purchase, sale and transfer of semi-automatic weapons was introduced in the House.

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