Guns and Gear

Republicans plan ‘historical, monumental’ effort to defeat gun bills

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Some of the most controversial gun bills being considered by the Democratic-controlled Colorado legislature might not be the shoo-in legislation that many have assumed them to be. According to an article in the Denver Post, three of seven gun bills being heard in the Colorado Senate on Friday are only one Democratic defection away from defeat.

The endangered bills would ban concealed weapons on college campuses, ban high-capacity magazines, and impose liability on owners, sellers and makers of assault-style weapons. While passions have run high over all of the gun bills introduced this year, these bills have inspired the most robust debate.

Democrats control a thin majority in the Senate of 20-15, meaning Republicans must convince only three of their political opponents to switch sides to kill a bill.

But for these three bills, that margin has narrowed to one, according to the Post, which reports that Democratic Sens. Cheri Jahn and Lois Tochtrop will vote against them.

The concealed carry bill and the bill limiting ammunition magazines to no more than 15 rounds have already passed the House, igniting a firestorm of controversy in the meantime.

In arguing in favor of banning concealed weapons on college campuses, Democratic Rep. Joe Salazar implied that armed women might accidentally shoot innocent people if they mistook them for rapists, earning himself about a week’s worth of mockery on the Internet.

It also gave Republicans a talking point that Democrats don’t trust guns in the hands of women. The argument was revived last week when Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak told a rape survivor that “statistics are not on your side” that she would have been safer with a gun. Hudak later apologized.

The bill to ban high-capacity magazines became a lightning rod when one Colorado manufacturer of such equipment, Magpul Industries — which employs about 200 people and contributes $85 million to the state economy — announced it would leave the state if the bill passes. Magpul turned the controversy into something of a public relations coup, launching a new Cold War-themed advertising campaign and fielding business-development courters from across the country who want the business to relocate to their states.

Magpul even pulled off the best visual of the entire gun-control debate, when Republican Sen. Greg Brophy allowed the company to park its customized truck, which resembled a small armored personnel carrier, in his private parking space in front of the capitol building Friday.

By far the most controversial bill is Senate president John Morse’s proposal to hold owners, sellers and makers of such popular rifles as AR-15s accountable for damage caused by the weapons, a bill that requires some contortion to get around a federal law that generally immunizes the gun industry from liability.

Even some Democrats balked at the idea from the start, and it’s the only one of the seven gun bills that the Post doesn’t endorse (albeit only because the Post prefers a straight ban on assault rifles). It must pass both the Senate and the House before arriving on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk.

But there’s a real chance that bill and the others might not clear the Senate. Minority Leader Bill Cadman told the Post that Republicans “are planning a historical, monumental effort to make a sound case against these proposals.”

That push will come both behind the scenes as Second Amendment advocates and gun rights lobbyists ratchet up the pressure on Democratic senators as well as on the floor of the Senate Friday during what’s being predicted to be another marathon debate on all seven bills that will keep senators in the capitol well into the evening.

Despite Democrats’ majority in the legislature, constituent pressure may be having an effect slowing down a process that many thought would go smoothly for Democrats. Lawmakers have reported being inundated with email and phone calls from people on both sides of the gun debate, but lately the gun-rights crowd has had the louder voice.

On Monday, hundreds showed up in person at the capitol to protest the bills, backed up by a caravan of motorists who circled the building for hours laying on their horns.

Friday’s debate promises more of the same, perhaps on a larger scale. One Second Amendment advocate tweeted on Thursday to ask if “any rednecks out there have time to rig up a train horn for their truck in time for Friday’s proceedings at the Capitol?”

Whether he was kidding or not, it’s clear that opponents of these bills are willing to fight them to the wire. And with a number of Democratic senators telling the Post that they’re still undecided about some of the proposed legislation, they’re as close now as they’ll ever be to defeating the bills.

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