Colorado’s Senate narrowly approved gun restrictions including background checks for all firearm sales and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines, in the wake of two of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
The Senate also passed a measure that requires domestic-violence offenders to surrender their guns, a bill setting a fee for background checks and legislation mandating in-person training for concealed-carry permit applicants.
“If you are law-abiding you go through the gate; if you’re not, you don’t,” said Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll, a Democrat from Aurora, referring to the bill she sponsored requiring background checks for all gun sales.
“If we fail to do a common-sense measure -- the one thing the data tells us blocks many criminals from buying weapons -- then shame on us,” added Carroll, whose district includes the Aurora cinema where James Holmes allegedly killed 12 and wounded 58 on July 20.
All the Democrat-backed gun bills approved yesterday now proceed to the state’s House of Representatives, except the background-check fee measure, which already cleared the lower chamber and heads to Governor John Hickenlooper. The Democratic governor has indicated he approves of that measure as well as those requiring background checks for all gun sales and limiting magazine capacity -- both key policy goals of President Barack Obama.
Colorado, with a gun-friendly culture in which many children grow up learning to use their parents’ weapons, is the second state after New York to advance sweeping limits following the massacres in Aurora and Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six school employees died. Firearms legislation is also being debated in Congress and statehouses nationwide, with Colorado’s action seen as a barometer of the public’s willingness to support new restrictions.
Both houses of the state’s General Assembly are controlled by Democrats, who introduced an ambitious agenda of gun-control legislation on Feb. 5. The measures on universal background checks and limiting magazines to 15 rounds that already cleared the House will reviewed by that body because of amendments added by the Senate.
A total of five bills were advanced over objections of Republicans, who argued that they were overly broad, did nothing to improve safety and infringed on Second Amendment rights.
“It’s absurd,” said Senator Greg Brophy, a Republican from Wray, referring to the background checks bill, “because it doesn’t do anything to improve safety unless you’re willing to take the step of registering all firearms.”
Several Republicans, including Brophy, said they would openly defy a limit on ammunition magazines if it became law.
“I can say this with no hesitation -- I will not abide by this law if passed,” said Senator Vicki Marble, a Republican from Fort Collins. “Neither will my family, my friends, and judging from my e-mails, I doubt most of the people in my district.”
The background-checks requirement for all gun sales and legislation instituting fees for such reviews were each advanced by only two votes in the Senate, where Democrats hold a 20-15 majority. The magazines limit passed by a single vote.
Conservative Senators also called attention to threats by Erie, Colorado-based Magpul Industries Corp., the state’s largest firearm-accessories maker, to take hundreds of jobs elsewhere if high-capacity magazines were restricted. Companies that rely on Magpul contracts also said they’d relocate.
“There will be hundreds of people, possibly thousands of people, because of the satellite businesses, who will be affected by this legislation,” said Senator Randy Baumgardner, a Republican from Cowdrey, referring to limits on magazines. “Those people will be out of work.”
Democrats rebuffed assertions that the gun measures would outlaw common handguns and harm the region’s economy, pointing to the state’s two mass shootings. In addition to the Aurora massacre, 15 people died in a 1999 attack at Columbine High School near Denver.
“We can’t get the kids back that we lost, but we can sure fight not to send more,” said Senator Mike Johnston, a Democrat from Denver. “It’s going to take our ability to make a commitment on values -- the dilemma comes when you have competing values on both sides.”