Colorado Democrats look to make gun manufacturers liable for damage done by assault-style weapons

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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When Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper meets with National Rifle Association president David Keene on Thursday, they will have plenty to talk about.

On Tuesday, Colorado Democrats unveiled a sweeping package of gun-control legislation that even some Democrats think goes too far, according to the Denver Post.

Among the measures to be debated in the coming weeks are bans on ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds; universal background checks for all gun purchases, including private transactions; tighter monitoring of potential gun buyers with mental health issues; and — most controversially — a bill that would hold gun companies liable for damage caused by assault-style weapons.

Democrats have a majority in both chambers of the legislature and Republicans have been nervously awaiting their response to the Democratic governor’s call for gun control in the wake of the Aurora theater shootings and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

But even some Democrats are worried that parts of their package announced Tuesday cross a Second Amendment line.

Holding gun manufacturers liable for injuries “appears to be very overreaching,” Democratic Sen. Cheri Jahn told the Post. “I think that could be on the extreme side.”

It could also conflict with a federal law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prevents gun makers from being sued for crimes committed with weapons they produce.

The bill is proposed by Senate Majority Leader Sen. John Morse, and would exclude handguns, bolt-action rifles and shotguns.

“It bans the legal sale of semiautomatic guns in Colorado,” state Sen. Greg Brophy, told the newspaper. “It’s the most extreme anti-gun measure I think we’ve seen. This is the equivalent of holding Coors, the distributor and the 7-Eleven from which the 12-pack of beer was stolen responsible for the drunk-driving accident.”

The Post also notes another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Ed Vigil, said earlier in the week that more gun control measures weren’t the answer to addressing gun violence. He called the liability proposal “absolutely nuts.”

Keene and Hickenlooper were scheduled to meet before Democrats revealed their proposed legislation. The NRA released a “legislative alert” to its members in December warning that Colorado would be ground zero in the fight over gun control, calling it “guinea pig to push through ineffective and illogical gun control laws at the state level.”

Hickenlooper’s office didn’t respond to the lawmakers’ proposals in detail, saying in a statement that he supports universal background checks and “is open to discussion” about banning high capacity magazines.

As for the liability issue, the statement said, “We intend to carefully study the liability legislation proposed by  Sen. Morse and appreciate his effort to put a creative idea on the table.”

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Greg Campbell