Hickenlooper draws return fire
To hoots of protests at Club 20, governor defends new gun-control laws
As whistles and chants from protesters echoed from outside a ballroom at Colorado Mesa University during Club 20’s annual spring meeting, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Saturday defended the more controversial elements of landmark bills aimed at curbing gun violence, which he signed into law last week.
“I appreciate you guys having the welcoming committee out for me,” Hickenlooper joked in starting a 20-minute speech. “That was really fun to watch.”
Waving flags, carrying signs and calling for the governor’s recall, roughly 100 protesters in an organized effort lined both sides of 12th Street — some of them standing in the traffic median adjacent to the university’s parking garage — around noon.
Roughly 20 minutes into the affair, rumor spread that Hickenlooper and his security had dodged the crowd via another entrance and were already inside CMU’s University Center.
A good portion of the crowd then entered the facility, including David Cox, president of Pro-Second Amendment Committee in Mesa County, who led the crowd in a chant of the Twisted Sister rock anthem, “We’re Not Going to Take It.”
“After registration comes confiscation ... after registration comes confiscation,” Cox screamed, leading followers.
The protest milled on the ground floor of the University Center, while Club 20 was organized for the day on the second floor. Five uniformed Grand Junction police officers stood outside the ballroom where Hickenlooper addressed attendees.
The measures signed into law Wednesday by the governor create universal background checks on the sale of all firearms in Colorado, require buyers pay for those checks and limit to 15 the number of rounds in a gun magazine.
“The challenge so often for us is getting everyone to use the same facts, so what are the real facts?” Hickenlooper told Club 20.
In 2012, with background checks covering roughly 60 percent of all transactions, roughly 5,000 of the state’s 320,000 sales were halted, he said. Among them were 38 people who had been accused or convicted of homicide, the governor said. There were 133 canceled transactions for would-be buyers accused or convicted of sexual assault, about 400 with restraining orders and 640 people convicted or accused of burglary, he said.
“For people saying these criminals are too smart for these laws, we had 236 people waiting for background checks whom we arrested for outstanding warrants,” Hickenlooper told the crowd, “I’m not saying it would have stopped the shooting in Aurora, Tucson or Sandy Hook, but it does make a difference.”
Mass killings can and have been stopped when suspects were forced to change out high-capacity gun magazines, he said. Hickenlooper acknowledged Colorado’s new magazine limit imposes an “inconvenience” of having to “change the clip more often.”
“We can argue over whether that’s unreasonable and that’s a legitimate argument,” he said. “But there are a lot of people who are worried about the number of kids getting shot.”
“Let’s have that discussion ... it’s not the end of the world,” he added. “I’m not taking anybody’s guns away and I’m not limiting anyone’s ability to protect themselves.”
Hickenlooper said his staff’s research over recent months has yet to find “one instance (nationally) where somebody needed more than 15 rounds to defend themselves in their home.”
The crowd broke into applause when Hickenlooper acknowledged that Erie-based Magpul Industries — a manufacturer of high-capacity magazines who has pledged to leave Colorado with last week’s bill signing — “hated” the new gun measures.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep them in Colorado,” the governor said. “But I’m not sure it’s going to matter to them because it’s a matter of principle.”
Mike Purdy and his daughter, Jenna, 20, who were out to protest Hickenlooper, brought their own principles to Saturday’s event. The father and daughter wore orange hunting vests as they held signs on 12th Street.
Purdy said he doesn’t believe Grand Junction has a “gun violence or crime” issue.
“He needs to listen to us on the Western Slope,” the elder Purdy said. “Why is something they have a problem with over on the Front Range being made state policy? I don’t feel the people of the Western Slope were fairly represented.”