AP analysis: Expanded state gun background checks based on flawed estimate

(Photo: Thinkstock)

(Photo: Thinkstock)

DENVER — In an analysis of data compiled by the state, The Associated Press found the projected impact of a 1-year-old state law that expanded background check requirements on gun sales in the state was overstated in a budget report.

One lawmaker is wondering if the Legislature misallocated millions of taxpayer dollars based on the estimate.

The gun laws were pushed into law last year in response to mass shootings in Colorado and around the country. The background check requirement was based on information from the Colorado Legislative Council, which predicted 420,000 new reviews in the first two years of the law, and $3 million was budgeted to handle the checks.

But the AP’s analysis shows the Colorado Bureau of Investigation have performed only about 13,600 reviews that would be considered a result of the new law — only 6.5 percent of the estimated total in the first year.

“I’m not discouraged by the lower number,” Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, told the AP. “I think that it’s a good number because it shows me that people are complying with the law.”

CBI spokeswoman Susan Medina told the AP that the $3 million that was budgeted went to hiring and operating expenses. She said about 12 full-time positions were filled, but that “the full authorized staff was not implemented.” The agency has the money for 14 more full-time positions, Medina said.

The AP says there were about 311,000 background checks in the first year of the expansion, with the 13,600 checks between private sellers making up 4 percent of the total. Gun-control advocates and President Barack Obama have long said 40 percent of gun sales in the country are made between private sellers, based on a 1997 report from the National Institute of Justice.

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen told the AP the the 40 percent figure for Colorado’s projection “calls into question lawmakers’ access to accurate information on not only this, but all firearms-related legislation.”

The AP also reported the private review figure includes checks done at gun shows, a longtime requirement in the state. The AP’s analysis shows there were 260 denials under the expansion.

The gun laws have been a hot topic since being implemented, including tension between Gov. John Hickenlooper and the state’s sheriffs.

Last month, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit trying to overturn the new gun laws, though the ruling is being appealed.

On Friday morning, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith took to Twitter to react to the AP’s analysis.