- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

DENVER (AP) - Colorado Republicans notched a symbolic victory in the gun-control debate Tuesday, advancing legislation in the Senate that repeals new background check requirements for firearm purchases.

The GOP took control of the Senate in November in part because of a package of gun-control laws passed under Democratic control two years ago in response to mass shootings.

Republicans have made it a priority to undo two of the laws that were part of the package - a ban on ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds and a requirement that guns bought online and between private sellers go through a criminal background check.

Repealing magazine limits has cleared the Senate, and the bill is awaiting action in the House, where ruling Democrats are expected to reject it. The same is expected to happen with the universal background-check repeal when it gets to the House after the Senate takes a final vote on the measure as soon as this week.

On Tuesday, Republicans made their case for undoing new background checks before giving initial approval to the repeal bill on an unrecorded voice vote.

Republican Sen. John Cooke, a former sheriff, noted that just three people have been convicted for failing to obey the new background checks. That figure doesn’t include Denver cases, but legislative staffers said the number is thought to be minimal.

“Three convictions? Three? We’re not catching many people. This law doesn’t make any sense,” Cooke said.

The number of convictions, Republicans argue, does not justify what they see as an unnecessary burden on law-abiding citizens who want to exercise their constitutional right to firearms.

Democrats counter that repealing the background-check expansion would be dangerous, and that it restores a loophole that makes it easier for felons to get guns illegally.

“The idea of repealing criminal background checks, making it easier for felons to get firearms, is one that astonishes to me, to be candid,” said Democratic Sen. Morgan Carroll, who represents the district where the suburban Denver theater shooting happened in 2012. Twelve moviegoers were killed, and dozens injured.

During the first year of the law, which took effect on July 1, 2013, a total of 311,341 background checks were conducted on gun buyers by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the agency that does the reviews. Of those, 13,623 were considered private sales.

However, a good chunk of those private sales - 4,628 - were conducted at gun shows, which already required background checks before the new law. And the overall private-sale tally also includes interstate sales conducted online, which also were already required.

That means the exact number of checks that are directly attributable to the new law is unavailable.

Still, supporters of the law point to Colorado Bureau of Investigations data showing there were 68 denials for private sales after background checks at gun shows and another 98 denials for private purchases outside gun shows. The denials were for people with previous charges that included sex offenses, restraining orders and assaults.

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Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt contributed to this report.

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