Aurora shooting: Was state law a factor?


People react outside Gateway High School a few blocks from the scene of the Century 16 Theatre shootings in Aurora, Colorado July 20, 2012.



Many reports have made the link between today's early-morning shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in the town of Littleton, less than 20 miles from the scene of today's crime.

Commentators have also quickly turned toward questions about federal gun laws in the US, an ever-controversial topic that is especially salient in an election year. The Wall Street Journal reported that the alleged gunman in Aurora, who has been identified as James Holmes, 24, was carrying a rifle, a shotgun, and two pistols.

But what about the state? Is there something about Colorado's rules on firearms that is unique?

More from GlobalPost: Colorado theater shooting: Where does Obama stand on gun control?

According to the Colorado State Patrol website, Colorado allows individuals to carry loaded or unloaded firearms, and to do so in a "dwelling, place of business, or automobile." A permit to carry a concealed weapon, if an individual is not a current or retired law enforcement officer, must be obtained through county sheriffs' departments. Colorado prohibits gun registration, according to the CSP.

How does that compare to the rest of the country?

Back in 2010, The Daily Beast compiled a top-twenty list "the most armed states," based on data of FBI background checks, which reflect the number of gun purchases made in a given state. Colorado ranked number 14, with 15,086 checks per 100,000 residents, just behind Idaho and ahead of Missouri. Kentucky ranked No. 1, with 30,315 checks per 100,000 residents.

But it's hard to say precisely how state laws, rather than other factors — federal gun regulations not least among them — contribute to violent crime. In the Daily Beast's expanded list of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, DC came in as the place with the least gun purchases per capita, in spite of a notoriously high crime rate compared to national averages.

In March, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the state’s concealed-carry law applies to the University of Colorado, and struck down the state university’s ban on guns, according to The New Yorker. Holmes is reported to have dropped out of the University of Colorado medical school last month.

Colorado changed some of its police protocol following the 1999 Columbine shootings. As The Atlantic notes, it remains to be seen whether similar protocol was followed today.