Colorado gun control: Can state with pro-gun past enact new restrictions?
Colorado has a cultural history of gun ownership. It was also the site of two high-profile shootings. Five gun-control proposals are now moving through the Democratic-majority legislature.
Colorado has become a focal point in the gun-control debate, as a package of restrictions on gun ownership advance through the legislature and appear on track to become law.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures American Gun Culture
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If that happens, Colorado will become the first state after New York to enact significant gun-control legislation in the wake of the December shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the first swing state to do so.
A state with a libertarian bent and a cultural history of gun ownership, for hunting as well as protection and recreation, Colorado has also been the site of two of the most high-profile mass shootings – this past August in the Aurora movie theater and Columbine High School in 1999. A swing state, it’s also under Democratic control for the first time in years (the governor, House, and Senate are all Democratic) – though many of those Democrats are moderates who are also champions of gun rights.
Last week saw heated debate in the state’s Capitol that went, in some cases, well into the night. Star national witnesses from both sides of the issue appeared to testify, including Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shot by a Tucson gunman. At one point, a small plane flew overhead with a message for Gov. John Hickenlooper: “HICK: DO NOT TAKE OUR GUNS!”
Underscoring the importance of the Colorado outcome, Vice President Joe Biden has called some state lawmakers personally, while National Rifle Association head David Keene met privately with Governor Hickenlooper.
“There’s a lot at stake, and it’s been an incredible battle,” says Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado pollster and political analyst. “There’s a sense among the proponents [of the bills] that what comes out of Colorado may then have some influence on Washington thinking, and could definitely go into other states.”
What had grown into a package of seven bills has now shrunk to five. The bills still being considered include the following:
• A universal background check bill that would close some loopholes, including for private sales. The bill has passed both houses, and headed back to the House for another vote after passing the state Senate on Monday.
• A bill limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds. Opponents had hoped they might have won over enough Democrats to kill it, but the bill passed the Senate Monday by one vote. Two Republican lawmakers said they will disobey it if it becomes law.
• A bill to keep guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic violence offenses or under protection orders.
• A bill requiring in-person, rather than online, training for concealed carry permits.
• A bill requiring gun purchasers to pay for their own background check.
The background-check and magazine-limit bills have been among the most controversial – and, say proponents, could have the most effect.