Colorado: "Few gun dealers being checked"


August 20, 2003, 05:11 PM
from the Rocky Mountain News,1299,DRMN_37_2194985,00.htmlFew gun dealers being checked

Staffing, questions of jurisdiction keep state on sidelines

By Michele Ames, Rocky Mountain News
August 20, 2003

Only 138 of Colorado's 1,900 licensed firearms dealers were inspected last year to make sure they're conducting criminal-background checks on gun buyers, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

The state auditor's report of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation revealed that concerns about jurisdiction and lack of staff kept the bureau from doing basic inspections.

In fact, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted the only checks of gun dealers in Colorado last year.

Lawmakers and law enforcement officials discussed the possibility of adding the duty to the lengthy list of chores that fall to the CBI.

"Certainly, you have to ask yourself, as we're strapped for resources in all the other areas, is it wise to add more responsibility without additional resources?" said Sue Mencer, head of the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

Officials there aren't sure they have the authority to conduct the inspections, aimed at catching firearms dealers who fail to phone the CBI to ensure a person who wants to buy a gun does not have a criminal record. Gun dealers also must keep records on gun sales and take steps to ensure that customers aren't buying for someone ineligible to own a gun.

They've asked the Colorado attorney general for a ruling on the matter. But even if they are allowed to do the checks, they say the already stretched CBI staff would have a hard time fitting them in.

ATF officials in Denver and Phoenix were checking on the results of the 138 inspections, but did not have them Tuesday afternoon.

The audit report also revealed that the CBI is backlogged on evidence analysis, forcing some prosecutors to "try cases without all the evidence," and to "offer plea agreements to avoid going to trial with insufficient evidence."

For example, requests for DNA analysis alone have risen 200 percent from 1999 to 2002, the audit time frame. By comparison, staffing has increased 35 percent in that time.

The bureau's lab space is inadequate, and investigators have to take turns using equipment, according to Pete Mang, CBI's head. Systems for communicating the findings to local law enforcement are also outdated.

"Right now we are one step from a chisel and a stone as far as how we get reports out," Mang told the audit committee.

The backlogs throughout CBI make it unlikely that the agency will be able to take on additional responsibilities in tight budget times.

Wait times for gun background checks are 45 minutes at peak times, according to Dave Anver, owner of Dave's Guns, one of the largest gun shops in Colorado.

Gun buyers paid for their own background checks in Colorado until 2000. Then state lawmakers abolished the fee. Attempts to reinstate it last year because of drastic state budget cuts failed.

Anver said his shop is one of the few inspected by the ATF each year. He welcomes the inspections, but would prefer that CBI work on shortening wait times for completing background checks before they add more responsibilities.

"I have no problem with that whatsoever. If you are a licensed dealer, then you should be following the letter of the law," Anver said. "And if you're following the letter of the law, what problem would you have with a spot-check of your records?"

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Standing Wolf
August 20, 2003, 08:40 PM
There's zero chance of bypassing the background check in any of the gun shops I've done business with. We're looking at lots of hysterical words about a complete non-issue—from a Denver newspaper, of course.

Old Fuff
August 20, 2003, 10:54 PM
Firearms dealers are licensed by the Federal Government. They are "regulated" by the B.A.T.F. & E., an agency of the Federal Government. Federal license-holders do not answer to any state agency, although in some states dealers are also licenced by the state, or some cities within a state. This reporter should check and see if the dealers in question are state-licensed. If not, he can go in sit in the corner with his Teddy bear.

August 21, 2003, 12:50 AM
I wonder how many newspapers were checked out last year? Obviously, not nearly enough.:rolleyes:

August 21, 2003, 07:52 AM
Well, if Congress were to pass an appropriations bill limiting the ATF's spending with regards to stings & entrapment and requiring they use a certain percentage of their budget to inspect gun dealers there might be something done about this issue...


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