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Colorado GOP cries foul over 'misleading' gun-sale background check data

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July 24, 2012: A Palmetto M4 assault rifle is seen at the Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo store in Parker, Colorado.Reuters

Republicans are criticizing Colorado Bureau of Investigations data that tracks the number of background checks done on private gun sales since a new law expanded the number of reviews required.

The GOP failed last month in an effort to repeal the law that added online and private-seller transactions to a list of mandated checks.

During debate on the repeal attempt, CBI Director Ron Sloan said 6,200 checks were done on “private transfers that were covered under HB1229.”

Democrats sized on that figure in rejecting the repeal attempt, saying it showed that the law was working. Republicans, however, said the number was misleading.

According to CBI data released late Friday, 2,361 of the 6,199 private background checks done in the first six months of the law going into effect were conducted at gun shows. Background checks at gun shows have long been required under state law.

Republican Senate Leader Bill Cadman said Monday that he was “extremely concerned that such misleading information would be provided as factually based testimony by the senior law enforcement professional in Colorado.”

“It’s alarming that these were presented in such a way to a committee to substantiate the Democrats’ desire to kill this bill,” he said.

CBI spokeswoman Susan Medina defended Sloan’s testimony, saying in an email late Monday that “although certain types of private firearms transfers required background checks prior to the passage of HB13-1229 those private transfers are now covered under HB13-1229.”

All of the checks Sloan cited are covered under the new law, Medina stated.

Democratic Sen. Irene Aguilar, who was on the committee that rejected the Republican repeal attempt, said the numbers haven’t undermined her belief in the background check expansion passed last year in the wake of mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut.

“You get back to a basic philosophy of, ‘Do you think it’s reasonable to ask every time a gun is transferred that a background check be done?’” she said in support of the law.

She continued, saying “to really know the effect of that law in specific, you’d need to have more details on these numbers and the non-gun show” figures. Aguilar also said it would also be helpful to see what the data show once the law has been in effect for a longer period of time.

The bureau released the numbers late Friday in response to requests from The Associated Press and other media. An analysis of the data fails to provide a full accounting of the effect of the law because transactions between private parties at gun shows have long required background checks under Colorado law, and it’s not known whether total gun sales went up or down during the time encompassed by the data.

CBI has not made clear what were considered private transactions before the law’s expansion. But lawmakers from both parties have said those earlier checks could be from gun sales in which the seller was out of state.

Federal law requires background checks on gun sales that cross state lines, which go through a licensed dealer in the buyer’s state.

Matt Solomon, the owner of Alpine Arms in Eagle, said that since 2008 there has been a private sale option on background check forms, a designation he applied to online transactions.

The CBI figures showed little change in the number of background checks for private firearm transactions before and after a law expanding the checks took effect July 1.

Cadman said he doubts that introducing another repeal bill this year would succeed, even with more detail on the data.