Recollection of death and violence has hung over the Capitol throughout much of the legislative session, as gun bills have dominated lawmakers’ …
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Recollection of death and violence has hung over the Capitol throughout much of the legislative session, as gun bills have dominated lawmakers’ attention.
And that was even before the head of the state Department of Corrections was shot to death inside his home, just hours before Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three pieces of gun-control legislation into law on March 20.
Hickenlooper and Democratic leaders held a Capitol press conference to announce the bill signings. But their mood was somber, with the slaying of DOC Executive Director Tom Clements from the night before in the back of their minds.
“On a day that we should be celebrating the signing of these three bills that make our communities safer, I am mourning the loss of one more person who lost his life to this senseless violence that is plaguing our entire country,” said Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs.
Gun violence that continues to rattle the nation is exactly why Democrats put so much political capital into gun-control efforts this session.
But Republicans say Democrats will rue the day for their overreach.
Among the bills signed by Hickenlooper was House Bill 1229, which requires universal background checks on gun sales and transfers in Colorado.
Hickenlooper said there is evidence that background checks prevent criminals from getting their hands on guns.
“Background checks have great benefit,” the governor said. “People would say to me… `Well, criminals aren’t stupid. They’re not gonna comply with background checks.’ Well, no one told the criminals that.”
Hickenlooper also signed into law House Bill 1224, which limits the number of rounds that an ammunition magazine can carry to 15.
Throughout the session, Republicans have criticized the rounds limitation as an arbitrary effort that would do nothing to get weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. They also tagged it as being a job-killing bill that will cause Colorado-based gun and ammunition manufacturers to flee the state. Hickenlooper acknowledged that he initially was “ambivalent” about the legislation, which he said was “the most contentious bill that we’ve dealt with.”
But the governor added that “high-capacity magazines have the potential to turn killers into killing machines.”
Hickenlooper also signed House Bill 1228, which will end the taxpayer subsidization of fees associated with gun background checks.
Not a single Republican voted for any of the gun bills that Hickenlooper signed on March 20. They included Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray, who criticized the governor after the press conference, saying that the signings will leave his constituents in eastern Colorado livid.
“He slapped rural Colorado right in the face,” Brophy said. “Oh, (my constituents) are overwhelmingly upset about this. I mean, they’ve crawled out of the woodwork to talk about this issue. They’re on fire!”
And Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said his members will make sure that Democratic lawmakers pay in 2014.
“Gov. Hickenlooper and the Democrats in the Legislature just handed our organization a sledgehammer that we get to wade through their china shop in the 2014 elections,” Brown said. “Our organization and gun owners around the state are going to destroy the Democratic caucus.”
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