Gun bills approved after much wrangling
DENVER — It took more than 12 hours of nonstop debate, numerous amendments, heated tempers and even a few death threats, but the Democratic-controlled House did exactly what everyone there had expected when it started Friday: Give preliminary approval to four gun-control measures.
Legislators gave the initial approval to these measures:
■ HB1224 to limit to 15 how many bullets can be in high-capacity ammunition magazines.
■ HB1226 to bar concealed-carry weapons on college campuses.
■ HB1228 to require gun buyers to pay for their own background checks.
■ HB1229 to require background checks on all gun purchases.
The measures are part of a larger package introduced by Democrats in response to recent deadly shootings in Colorado and elsewhere in the nation.
“This bill alone is not going to solve the gun violence in our communities,” House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said during the six-hour debate over the first measures lawmakers considered on Friday, the limits on the size of gun magazines.
“This is a package of bills to deal with gun violence,” he continued. “We will see mental health (bills) ... which is a key component of this, but this bill also is a key component.”
Republicans argued that none of the four measures would do much, if anything to address the problem.
In fact, they argued that some, such as the magazine bill, would only harm the state. At least two gun-makers in the state have vowed to leave Colorado if the bills become law, and take hundreds of jobs and tax revenues with them.
Several Republicans said much of the impetus behind the measures is a feeling that putting a new law into the books will actually stop such violence.
“This book can’t pull a trigger, this book can’t drive a car, this book can do nothing, absolutely nothing,” Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, said on the floor of the House, while holding a copy of the state statutes. “I guarantee you that if we pass a law like this or another one ... within a very short period of time, something else is going to happen. What are we going to do, point to that book and say, ‘Gosh darn it, we tried. We put it in this book.’ Colleagues. We’re missing the point.”
By that thinking, Democrats countered, should the state not have statutes outlawing murder, speeding or anything else for that matter? Is the state powerless to do anything, they asked?
Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, said the real problem is that neither side is willing to give in because both have become entrenched in their positions.
“I do not believe the House of Representatives in the state of Colorado is powerless to do something about gun violence,” he said. “No constitutional right, even the Second Amendment, is absolute. No constitutional right is not subject to reasonable regulation.”
The day was littered with numerous distractions, including warnings to a packed gallery of House visitors not to react or applaud to anything they see or hear, personal phone calls from Vice President Joe Biden to Democratic lawmakers to support them, reported telephone death threats against some lawmakers in both parties, and numerous jokes and battles and side arguments in person and on social media sites over the merits of the measures.