State lawmakers are once again heading into a legislative session following a school shooting. Colorado passed controversial gun laws earlier this year in the wake of the Aurora theatre shooting and the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Bente Birkeland takes a look back at the gun legislation and talks to lawmakers who are taking stock of things.
The Arapahoe High School shooting hit especially close to home for Republican senator Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch. His son is a junior at Arapahoe High and was on the speech and debate team with gunman Karl Pierson. Harvey is also a good friend of Pierson’s mother – who he says is one of his biggest political backers.
“Nobody can prepare for it,” said Harvey. “Nobody can mentally prepare for it. It’s the most horrific thing I’ve been this closely involved in.”
Pierson took his own life as an armed school resource officer approached the school library. Harvey says it strengthens his position that schools shouldn’t ban trained faculty from having concealed carry permits.
“My wife is a teacher and she’s working in a gun free zone where those who want to do harm have free reign to come in and shoot students and staff without any opposition whatsoever,” said Harvey.
"It's the most horrific thing I've been this closely involved in."
In the 2013 session, Harvey sponsored a bill that would have allowed teachers to go through training and then possess a gun in the classroom. It didn’t get past the Democrats, who criticized the measure.
Senator Jessie Ulibarri (D-Commerce City) said it would make schools even less safe, adding that you don’t need a gun to take down a shooter, pointing to the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
“Unarmed people took that person down when he stopped to reload,” said. “So there are other ways to address violence and it doesn’t mean we have our kids exposed to a whole crossfire of multiple folks in a room shooting simultaneously.”
In the wake of the Aurora Theater Shooting and the Newtown tragedy, Democrats ultimately passed, and the governor signed, several gun control measures – including universal background checks and a ban on high capacity magazines of more than 15 rounds.
"We feel our position is right and the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun."
The political controversy eventually resulted in the loss of three Democratic senators through recall and resignation. Across the aisle, Senator and gubernatorial candidate Greg Brophy (R-Wray) strongly disagrees with the work of the Democrats.
“Anybody who thinks that another law is going to stop people from doing evil things is failing to understand the nature of the world we live in,” said Brophy.
For him, the laws are in ineffective and take away constitutional rights.
“We feel our position is right and the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun,” said Brophy.
The Republican caucus has said they plan to repeal the gun laws in the upcoming session. That’s something new incoming Senate President-elect Morgan Carroll (D- Aurora) says won’t happen.
“For us the idea of not doing a background check is crazy. It’s the only way you can keep guns out of a criminals’ hand. So there’s not a lot of interest in going backwards,” said Carroll.
Democrats say the laws are working – citing recent data that shows background checks stopped 72 sales where the would-be buyer was convicted or charged with a serious crime; like murder, sexual assault, possession of dangerous drugs and theft.
Both parties expect the topic of guns and violence to once again dominate the legislative session. Republican’s say it will be a key part of the upcoming 2014 election, where they’re hoping to flip control of the legislature.
Southern Colorado is changing a lot these days. We can help you keep up. Sign up for the KRCC Weekly Digest here and get the stories that matter to Southern Colorado, delivered straight to your inbox.