Colo. Democrats’ gun-control bills get first votes
Ryan Summerlin February 12, 2013
DENVER – Democrats pushed for new ammunition limits and more background checks on firearm purchases Tuesday as hundreds of people went to the state Capitol to listen or partake in the intensifying debate over stricter gun laws.
The bills are the latest responses to the mass shootings at an Aurora movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school, tragedies that heightened the national discussion on gun control and mental illness.
One bill would make it a crime to have or sell large-capacity gun magazines. Another proposal would require background checks on private gun sales, including those conducted online.
The Democratic House Judiciary committee is expected to take its first votes on the proposals Tuesday after several hours of testimony.
Denver Democratic Rep. Beth McCann said expanding background checks to include more firearm purchases or transfers is a way to close what she called a “a pretty obvious and distressing loophole.” She argued criminals who know they can’t pass a background check simply go online or through private seller to buy a weapon.
“So what’s the point of having the background check if we have this enormous loophole through which those who cannot pass a background check can jump?” she said.
But Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Bob Gardner questioned whether lawmakers were restricting law-abiding citizens’ right to bear arms. He also asked the bill sponsors whether they thought their measures would’ve prevented the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and the Aurora theater.
“I must ask, would this bill have prevented either one of those perpetrators, alleged perpetrators, either of them from under the circumstances and facts as we know them, would it have prevented them from getting those weapons?” Gardner asked.
Supporters of the bills say they are needed to curb gun violence.
“We’re going to have to take many small steps forward. This can be one of those,” said Greenwood Village police Chief John Jackson, speaking in support of expanded background checks on behalf of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
Opponents of the bills were expected to testify Tuesday afternoon, when lawmakers will also consider setting limits on large-capacity magazines.
The bills are part of a package of gun proposals Democrats announced last week.
Democrats have already rejected Republican ideas to reduce gun violence, including a bill to allow school employees to carry concealed weapons. Since Democrats control the Legislature, they’ll have more say on which bills gun measures pass.