Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signs three landmark gun laws at a signing ceremony. PHOTO: Reuters
Last week we reported on three bills that passed the Colorado State legislature. Now those bills are a done deal, as Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed them into law today. Colorado's landmark gun laws establish universal background checks on all gun purchases and a ban on the sale of gun magazines that hold more than 15 bullets (or 8 shotgun shells). The federal government has a shot at passing universal background checks, but almost no chance of any limits on gun sales. The states are meant to be laboratories of democracy, and now Colorado can experiment with what congressional Republicans won't touch.
On the magazine limit: this seems like the most logical place to start in regulating what sort of guns can be sold. It's true that there are well meaning people out there who would like to be able to fire twenty shots without reloading, but the action movie scenarios one has to dream up where making those guns harder to get for everyone is a bad idea are unlikely. Most people who can credibly claim they have to worry about a prolonged gun fight are involved in crime.
A random note related to this: the peerless radio program This American Life aired a two-part program on consecutive weeks about gang violence in and around Harper High School in Chicago. This is a public high school in a poor neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, where most kids are in gangs, and not being in a gang is arguably more dangerous than being in one. Shootings are shockingly common, and kids in or connected to the school die every year. One This American Life producer was talking to some of the Harper kids about guns, and she asked them what the best kind of gun is.
"You want a 30," said one. She asked for clarification. A 30 is a clip that holds 30 bullets. The most important aspect of a gun to these kids is its capacity. If we see these kids as stuck in a prisoner's dilemma, in which they need to be ready to shoot, even to kill, to protect themselves, but they are generally good kids, then reducing their firepower across the board is a good thing. If we see them as violent outcasts, then reducing their firepower is an even better thing. Lots of teenagers get into fights, but most don't see death as regularly (if at all) as the Harper kids.
That's not to say that all those kids need is a few good laws, but a few good laws would be a good start.