Colorado last week became the first Western state to ratchet back gun rights in response to mass shootings at a suburban Denver movie theater and an elementary school in Connecticut. Opponents warned that the gun controls would hurt hunters, especially an expansion of background-check requirements to apply to personal and online gun sales.
Republican opponents of the new background-check law said it would make criminals of hunters lending each other weapons for weekend hunting trips. In response, Democrats changed the bill to give people a 72-hour grace period to share guns without triggering background-check requirements. Republicans then said the bill would imperil weeklong hunting trips.
Gun rights advocates who said hunters would boycott Colorado in protest say they are following through on their threats.
Michael Bane, a freelance producer for The Outdoor Channel, announced he will no longer film his four shows in Colorado.
Hunting outfitters say people began canceling trips after the legislation passed, The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported (http://tinyurl.com/cfbquoy ).
Northwest Colorado hunting guide Chris Jurney expects more state defections in a major tourism industry. Out-of-state hunters accounted for 15 percent of hunting licenses last year, 86,000, compared with 489,000 for residents.
“There’s a united front of sportsmen that are tired of having their freedoms and liberties and fundamental rights taken away from them,” said Jurney, vice president of the Colorado Outfitters Association. “That kind of unity among sportsmen is going to be big, and unfortunately for those of us who live here, we’re going to suffer the consequences of this misguided legislation.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said his agency has asked the state attorney general’s office for advice on impacts to hunters. While legal possession of high-capacity magazines is grandfathered in, officials want to make sure they are still legal to use.
“We believe there’s the potential for impact. That’s out of our control,” he said. “Hunting is a tool to manage wildlife populations, and we do not believe the impacts will affect that part of our mission.”
Jurney said he expects the actual impact of gun regulations on Colorado hunters will be small. Varmint hunters tend to use high-capacity magazines, so they might be limited.
The head of the Colorado Tourism Office, which tracks travel spending in Colorado, told The Associated Press there was no immediate data showing any impact from a hunting boycott. Al White said Colorado has the region’s friendliest licensure process for out-of-state hunters and a waiting list for big-game licenses.
White touted the nation’s only over-the-counter licensing for elk hunting by out-of-state visitors.
“You can’t do that in Wyoming. You can’t do that in Montana,” he said.
Jeff Lepp, owner of Specialty Sports, a gun and hunting shop in Colorado Springs, predicts hunters are going to choose to visit other Rocky Mountain states.
“Small mountain towns and rural towns in this state are going to lose a lot of money because you’re not going to see the number of out-of-state hunters coming here,” he said. “Other states are going to see a growth.”