With rows of uniformed police officers providing the backdrop, President Barack Obama called for Congress to act on federal gun control legislation during a visit to the Denver Police Academy Wednesday, singling out Colorado lawmakers for taking the lead by banning high capacity magazines and requiring universal background checks for all gun transfers.
“We’re not going to just wait for the next Newtown or the next Aurora to act,” he said, referring to December’s school shooting in Connecticut and last summer’s theater shooting, which took place just a few miles from where he made his remarks.
Obama focused on legislation similar to that passed in Colorado that Congress may begin debating as early as next week: universal background checks and limiting the number of bullets ammunition magazines can hold.
He said that “the type of assault rifle used in Aurora, when paired with a high capacity magazine, has only one purpose: to pump out as many bullets as possible as fast as possible.”
“I don’t believe that weapons designed for theaters of war have a place in movie theaters,” he said.
Obama said he chose Denver to deliver his remarks — before a select audience that didn’t include the general public — because it’s a state with a deep firearms tradition that nevertheless passed the strongest gun control laws yet of any Western state, albeit with a Democratic-controlled state legislature and a Democratic governor.
During an often-brutal lawmaking session, Colorado served as a proxy battleground for national interests on both sides of the debate. The state capitol was the scene of numerous protests as the bills made their way through the legislative process. At least two people were arrested for threatening lawmakers.
So far, Hickenlooper has signed into law three pieces of legislation — laws that ban magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition, that require universal background checks for all gun transfers and that require gun buyers to pay for their background checks.
An attempted de facto ban on assault weapons was killed by its sponsor, as was a measure that would have banned concealed weapons on college campuses.
Obama also acknowledged his surroundings, praising the police and saying that the gun bills to be heard soon in Congress will make the streets safer and the job of law enforcement easier.
But as much as the setting may have given the impression of support from Colorado’s law enforcement communities, Colorado’s newly passed gun laws are far from universally popular among its men and women in blue.
A few hours before Obama’s appearance, more than a dozen Colorado sheriffs gathered in a nearby park to express their opposition to the state’s new laws.