Hickenlooper signs gun-control measures as he mourns slaying of prisons chief

Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at a news conference at the Capitol on Wednesday about the slaying of Tom Clements, the executive director of the Department of Corrections, who was shot and killed when he answered the front door of his house in Monument
on Tuesday night. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DENVER — In the wake of the shooting death of a member of his own Cabinet a day earlier, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law Wednesday three landmark bills designed to stem gun violence.

Choking back tears, the governor talked about the death of Tom Clements, his appointee as executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections who was shot at his home in Monument north of Colorado Springs late Tuesday.

Hickenlooper said regardless of the shooting, he would proceed with the planned signing of the controversial gun bills, saying he didn’t believe the two incidents were related.

“Whether this is an act of retaliation for something as yet we don’t know about, it’s also an act of intimidation,” the governor said. “We should go forward with our work ... and try to continue to move the state forward.”

He signed the bills soon afterwards.

The measures Hickenlooper signed create universal background checks on the sales of all firearms, a requirement that gun buyers pay for those checks and a limit on the number of rounds that can be held in a gun magazine.

The bills were the subject of long hours of debate in the Colorado House and Senate, with Republicans arguing that they are unconstitutional on grounds that they limit gun owners’ Second Amendment rights to bear arms.

Democrats, including the governor, said the measures are a reasonable response to numerous mass shootings in Colorado and elsewhere in the nation.

“Gun violence is a problem nationwide, and sadly in the state of Colorado we’re all too familiar with some of these tragedies,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. “While we cannot prevent every act of violence, we must do what we can to reduce the frequency and the impact of these horrible events.”

None of the bills had any support from Republicans, who are in the minority in both chambers of the Legislature.

The governor said the three bills are part of a larger package of measures the Legislature is considering, only some of which deal with firearms.

He said lawmakers also are considering increased funding for mental health programs, including a plan to create crisis response teams and mental health stabilization units to treat troubled people, rather than sending them off to jail where most troublesome mental health patients are taken when police become involved in an incident.

While Hickenlooper and other Democrats touted that none of the three bills would take away weapons from anyone, one measure lawmakers are still considering would do just that.

That measure would ban anyone convicted of a domestic violence offense, or who has a restraining order against them, from possessing any type of firearm.

The measure, SB197, has cleared the Senate and awaits a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Another gun-related measure the Legislature is considering would prohibit concealed-carry training, which is required by law before getting such a permit, from being done completely online or through simple electronic means.


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