The gun debate that riveted the state capitol last session once again took center stage yesterday. As Bente Birkeland reports, emotions were strong, but compared to last year, fewer people came to the capitol to testify on a key gun bill.
Republicans have vowed to repeal a package of gun control proposals that the Democrats passed. The first bill in their sights? The bill that brought universal background checks and fees for gun purchases to Colorado.
“My constituents in Pueblo sent me here to give a message,” said Republican state Senator George Rivera. “They don’t like the gun laws. I’m here today on their behalf to ask the members of this committee to vote yes [on repeal].”
A newly elected senator, Rivera replaced Democratic Senator Angel Giron, who was recalled from office over her support for stricter gun laws. Two other Democrats also lost their jobs, including the former senate president.
Democrats defend the gun laws, saying universal background checks are working.
“I’m confused as to why you think this law, which kept guns out of the hands of 104 criminals, should be repealed?” asked Senator Irene Aguilar (D-Denver). “Would you that we had given those people guns? Because that’s what repealing this law would lead to.”
State data says more than a 100 people were denied a gun because of expanded background checks. The new law requires background checks for private sales and firearm transfers. Opponents like Senator Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch) say it’s ineffective and harms responsible gun owners.
“Are you aware that it’s a violation of state statute for me to loan my neighbor a gun for more than 72 hours,” said Harvey. “There a number of situations in this bill… that is burdensome for the residents of the state of Colorado.”
Senate bill 94 would repeal the expanded background checks. Monday’s debate drew several hundred people to the capitol, everyone from gun rights advocates to gun control supporters and victims of gun violence. Megan Sullivan, whose brother was killed in the Aurora Theater shooting, hopes the law would prevent violent crime.
“My family is broken. Christmas, birthdays and my upcoming wedding will never be complete without my older brother,” said Sullivan. “My brother won’t be saved because of the background checks enacted last year, but other people can be saved.”
The National Rifle Association’s state liaison, Daniel Carey spoke in support of repeal, saying that background checks won’t deter criminals.
“These laws have failed to show conclusively any benefit to curbing violent crime and only infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Carey.
At the end of the nearly seven hour hearing the Democratic controlled state veterans and military affairs committee struck down the repeal on a party line vote.
Democrats have pledged to defeat other attempts to roll back the gun laws. The GOP plans next to try and repeal the ban on high capacity magazines of more than 15 rounds.