Bill changes gun laws

Only Sheriff's Office can issue permits

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— The criteria for deciding who gets to carry a gun in Colorado is changing. However, Routt County firearm enthusiasts may not notice the changes as much as people in other counties.

A new law that sets statewide standards for concealed-weapons permits will bring needed change to the way permits are issued, Routt County Sheriff John Warner said Monday.

Gov. Bill Owens signed Senate Bill 24 into law last month. The new law requires sheriffs to give permits to anyone who passes a criminal background check and completes a handgun-safety course.

Warner said he backs the law because it will remove subjectivity from law enforcement's decision about who gets gun permits.

All sheriffs in Colorado must now follow the same guidelines when handing out permits -- anyone who wants a gun permit must undergo a background check and safety training.

The former state law allowed sheriffs and police chiefs to decide who gets permits. The new law allows only sheriffs to authorize people to carry a gun. But it shouldn't disrupt local gun holders' habits.

The Routt County sheriff has traditionally handed out the bulk of gun permits.

Hayden Police Chief Jody Lenahan said only one person applied for a permit through the Hayden Police Department in 2002. J.D. Hays, director of Steamboat Springs Public Safety Services, said that would-be gun holders visit the Sheriff's Office instead of their local police department.

"I haven't issued any (permits)," Hays said.

Warner said 172 people in Routt County have gun permits. Revenues from permit fees generated $8,100 for the Sheriff's Office in 2002. The new law will slash that revenue in half.

Under the new law, all sheriffs must charge gun owners $100 for a five-year permit.

The Routt County Sheriff's Office has been charging first-time permit holders $100 and $75 to renew their permits every year.

Warner expects to see an initial spike in revenue when gun holders pay the $100 and a gradual decline over the five-year period.

But new people will move to the county and apply for gun permits during the interim, County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

"You're going to see some revenue annually," she said.

Warner isn't too concerned about loss of renewal fees.

Gun permits aren't intended to be a money-maker, he said.

About 90 to 95 percent of the permit fee pays for processing charges and man-hours spent on background checks, Warner said.

He admits the new law will have some kinks, but time will help smooth them out.

"This is going to take some work," he said. "But we support it 100 percent."


-- To reach Danie Harrelson call 871-4203

or e-mail dharrelson@steamboatpilot.com

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