Are we safer? That question was on the minds of some state lawmakers this week as they weighed the value of a statewide database on concealed-carry permit holders.
The database, put in place in 2003 by legislation, is defended by those who are comforted by restraints on gun ownership and reviled by staunch supporters of a constitutional right to arms. After members of the Legislative Audit Committee on Tuesday were given a snapshot of the overall effectiveness of the program, the questions arose.
The database is riddled with errors, says an audit performed by the state’s auditor: 63 percent of the records in the database contained mistakes. The audit also found that the validity of any given permit could not be verified.
“Overall, we found that controls are not adequate to ensure that the database can always be relied upon to determine the validity of a permit,” said the audit.
The audit assessed three considerations: the security of the database’s information, the accuracy of the information and the benefits of the database for public safety. Given the inaccuracies, panel members focused on the third aspect – public safety—questioning whether the law authorizing the data collection should be allowed to expire, as it is set in law to do, in July of 2011. Committee members surmised that it seemed to contribute little toward the public good. The audit itself did not make a determination whether the program benefited the public.
“Overall we were not able to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to conclude on whether the database provides a benefit to law enforcement or public safety,” said the audit.
One reason for the inaccuracies in the database is that many of the state’s sheriffs–who are charged with issuing the permits–do not forward information to the database, Gary Cure, assistant director of the County Sheriffs Of Colorado, told the Pueblo Chieftain.
“Their constituents don’t want it,” Cure told the Chieftain. “(Concealed handgun permit holders) don’t want to be in the same database as criminals.”
The audit committee’s Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said he doesn’t see the point of putting law-abiding gun owners through the hoops of compliance with a program that has minimal benefit, at best.
“It’s another one of those government programs that’s doing no good at all,” said Schultheis. “Most sheriffs don’t want the database, and not one of them can cite an instance where the database has protected the public in any way, shape or form.”
House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D- Pueblo, agreed on Thursday that letting the database expire may be the right thing.
“My gut feeling is that if bad guys want to get their hands on guns, they do,” Pace said. “We shouldn’t be running a law about citizens exercising their constitutional rights, at the expense of other constitutional rights, without having evidence showing that we’re preventing any future crimes.”