Why It Matters: In 2021, Colorado Parks and Wildlife received over $80 million generated through hunting license sales, and a 10-11% federal excise tax on firearm and ammunition purchases under the Pittman-Robertson Act, that went directly to the agency for statewide conservation efforts. Without sportspeople purchasing hunting licenses, firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s primary funding source and subsequent conservation efforts would be in jeopardy. Anti-firearm bills that restrict ownership and use of some of today’s most popular firearms will likely result in declines in conservation funding.
- The Colorado legislature made gun control a legislative priority this session, pushing forward a package of bills with the stated intent of curbing gun violence in the state.
- SB 23-168 unduly shifts the burden of responsibility for a crime from the individual committing it to retailers, distributors, and manufacturers of the item used in the commission of the crime (specifically firearms, ammunition, and certain firearm accessories).
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), along with industry, state and national partners, and individual members of the outdoor sporting community banded together to oppose this egregious bill and the negative impacts it would have in the state.
Anti-firearm legislation continues to be a nationwide focal point this legislative session, and Colorado is no different. One bill of particular concern due to its egregious nature was Colorado SB 23-168 – Gun Violence Victims Access to Judicial System. SB 23-168 as originally drafted would have unduly shifted the burden of responsibility for a crime from the individual committing it to retailers, distributors, and manufacturers of the item used in the commission of the crime (specifically firearms, ammunition, and certain firearm accessories).
The vague language contained in the bill as originally drafted could potentially include common hunting and recreational shooting accessories such as scopes and sights, as well as bipods, slings, and other items. The implications would therefore extend well beyond just firearms and ammunition and would have far-reaching negative impacts on the state’s economy and conservation funding as manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of a wide array of outdoor sporting goods would be forced to question whether operating within the state was worth living under the uncertainty of one day potentially facing legal action and being held accountable for the crimes of another. Furthermore, SB 23-168 would have a disastrous impact on Colorado’s shooting sports and hunting community. The bill would have a monumental chilling effect on participation in Colorado’s time-honored traditions and spell catastrophe for the future of conservation efforts in the state.
After considerable debate within both chambers and a disagreement over amendments between the House and the Senate, SB 23-168 was ultimately sent to Conference Committee. The Conference Committee was tasked with determining a workable path forward for the bill to gain the support of both the House and the Senate. Ultimately, the Conference Committee made significant changes to SB 23-168, and while the revised version of the bill was better, it still left firearm, ammunition, and firearm accessory retailers, distributors, and manufacturers liable for damages if certain firearm industry products were used in a crime and it were proven that they “knowingly” violated the Colorado Consumer Protections Act or other existing statutes. SB23-168 as reported out of the Conference Committee was passed by both the House and the Senate and it is currently on its way to Governor Polis’s desk for final signature.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), alongside industry, in-state, and national partners, and individual members of the outdoor sporting community worked diligently to keep SB23-168 from being passed based on its vague language and the unintended consequences on Colorado’s hunting and shooting sports community and ongoing conservation efforts. CSF is confident that the broad and engaged opposition provide through verbal and written testimony, phone calls to legislators, media engagement, and more played a key role in the amendments that came out of the Conference Committee. Although still not a bill the community can support, we were able to move the needle in a positive direction and make a bad bill better. Thank you to everyone who took the time to contact their legislator and voiced their opposition to SB23-168. You each made a difference.