Colorado poised to pass latest round of gun control bills
The last of Colorado’s controversial gun bills are expected to clear their remaining hurdles at the Democratic-controlled state legislature this week, bringing to five the number of new gun control laws adopted in the wake of high profile mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.
Only one of the bills had any Republican support, a measure to require that training for concealed carry permits be done face-to-face rather than online. Two Republicans voted in favor of it, a rarity in what has otherwise been a partisan feud over what, if any, limits should be imposed on gun ownership.
Once the concealed carry training bill clears the House Monday, it will go to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is expected to sign it into law.
Another bill bans gun ownership by people convicted of domestic violence or who are under a restraining order. That bill has been amended and must return to the Senate for another vote, but it too is expected to pass along party lines.
Once signed into law, they will join three other measures that have already been adopted and which have spurred often heated debate in the Denver capitol building since the legislative session began in January.
One is a ban on ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Another requires background checks for all gun transfers and the third requires gun buyers to pay for those checks.
Two other bills — one that made assault weapons owners liable for any damage the cause and another banning concealed weapons on college campuses — were killed by their sponsors.
The gun control debate roiled the state capitol, leading to days of boisterous protests, heated rhetoric, threats of economic boycott and even a handful of death threats leveled at lawmakers.
But Democrats were encouraged to soldier on by the White House and by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the organization led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Vice President Joe Biden, who has led the gun control effort since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, personally called several Democratic state senators to bolster their resolve during a late-night debate.
“Colorado is proving a model of what’s possible,” President Barack Obama said during his visit to Denver April 3, adding that he hoped Congress would follow its lead. “There’s no reason we can’t do this unless politics is getting in the way.”
But on the federal level, the Senate dramatically failed to pass any of the gun control bills that Obama had spent months campaigning for, including several that were similar to measures passed in Colorado.
Some state Republicans see the development in Washington, D.C., as evidence that Democrats as having gone too far out on a limb at the behest of national party leaders.
“To me it validates what I had been saying all along, that Colorado Democrats were the most extreme in the country,” said state Sen. Greg Brophy, a Republican who was among the most outspoken in opposing new gun control laws.
“We had polling done late in the battle that clearly indicated that two-thirds of Colorado opposed these bills or thought they went too far,” Brophy said. “But they rammed them through anyway at the request of Bloomberg and Biden, and the Senate Democrats back in Washington, D.C., where the whole process has slowed down, blinked.”
But political analysts in Colorado say that it’s Congress that is out on a limb, not state Democrats, considering wide public support for reforms such as expanding background checks for gun purchases.
A Denver Post poll conducted in January showed 80 percent of Coloradans favor universal background checks and 60 percent support limiting magazine capacity.
“I think I would rather be in the position of the Democrats right now than the other way around,” said Colorado State University political science professor John Straayer, a local political analyst.
“There will be attacks on Colorado Democrats in 2014 because of this legislation, but those attacks can backfire,” he said. “If you’ve got 80, 90 percent of the people who prefer background checks, that’s great fire for the Democrats to say the clear public sentiment is with us on this.”
Eric Sondermann, with the Colorado Springs consulting firm SE2, agrees.
“Given the polls I’ve seen in Colorado, Democrats are closer to the majority sentiment than Republicans are in most districts,” said Eric Sondermann “Will the gun bills that the Colorado legislature passed cost a random Democrat here or there a legislative seat? Quite possibly. Does it by itself jeopardize the Democrats’ control of the state legislature? I don’t see that.”
Neither do the Democrats, who see the Senate’s failure on the gun issue as an opportunity to highlight their alignment with popular sentiment.
In a statement emailed to The Daily Caller News Foundation, state Senate majority spokesman Doug Schepman said the majority of Coloradans support expanded background checks and magazine limits, “which is why our caucus championed these gun safety measures for Colorado.”
“The ineffectiveness of Congress has no bearing on the validity of gun safety laws passed in Colorado, or other states,” he wrote. “Congress hasn’t passed a budget in four years, does that mean the balanced budget Colorado recently passed is flawed?”
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