Hickenlooper says repealing gun laws passed in 2013 not an option

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(Photo: CPR/Megan Verlee)
<p>Gov. John Hickenlooper at the Capitol.</p>

Gov. John Hickenlooper says he stands behind the gun control laws passed by the legislature in the 2013 session but welcomes suggestions for improving or changing current Colorado laws.

"If someone comes and has some way of improving or changing them, I'm not ruling anything out," Hickenlooper said in an interview with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. "I think only a fool would say: ‘I'm not going to change anything.’"

But when it comes to the possibility of repealing the measures outright, as some Republican lawmakers have suggested, Hickenlooper doesn’t believe “we're going to repeal anything."

The governor's comments come just days after a student gunman opened fire at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo.

Claire Davis, a 17-year-old senior, remains in a coma after getting shot last Friday at the school.

Gov. Hickenlooper says Coloradans value two things deeply: “One is their Second-Amendment rights but the other is to make their communities safer.”

Hickenlooper also believes these “two desires don't have to be in constant conflict.”

By traveling around the state, Hickenlooper says by talking to people about the gun measures, he's seen broad support for the specific measures put in place that include universal background checks and limits to the size of ammunition magazines, for example.

Gov. Hickenlooper visited his son's school on Monday, the first school day since the shootings at Arapahoe High School, and walked into the building without going through any type of security.

The Governor says that gave him pause but thinks it’s the “way it should be.”

“We can't let our schools become fortified castles or military installations,” Hickenlooper said. “It's a place for learning and for ideas and for children.

Gov. Hickenlooper also encouraged Coloradans to keep the shootings in perspective.

"If you look at the number of kids who die in accidental deaths in swimming pools, far more than die in shootings,” Hickenlooper said. “But somehow the shootings are so visceral and affect us -- they're so violent and affect us so deeply.”

Gov. Hickenlooper says he tries to remind the people he meets that tragic events like the shooting at Arapahoe High School aren’t as frequent as they may seem.

"What I've been trying to tell people all weekend is that this happens once in a blue moon,” Hickenlooper said. “It seems like it's happening so frequently because we've had a couple of these shootings in Colorado.”

The Governor wants people to look deeper into the situation.

“In real terms, looking at the number of schools and students across the country, people shouldn't be fearful,” Hickenlooper said. “But at the same time, we shouldn't accept that one shooting happens in a school.”

Switching gears, Hickenlooper acknowledged the frustration over the botched rollout of the health insurance websites as part of the Affordable Care Act.

"Clearly, people are very frustrated, and I don't blame them,” Hickenlooper said. “This has been a difficult rollout by any measure."

But, Hickenlooper also says the extent to which the Affordable Care Act has increased what some people pay for health insurance has been overblown.

"Relative to the scale at which the program's been rolled out," the increases to health insurance rates for some customers is small, Hickenlooper said.

Regarding new air quality rules for the oil and gas industry, announced by the Governor's office a few weeks ago, Gov. Hickenlooper addressed concerns about how the state can enforce those rules.

"Over the last three years we've tripled the number of inspectors, so there are more people in the field looking at more wells," Hickenlooper said.

The State of Colorado has also added infrared cameras to detect methane gas.

Hickenlooper said this method is an “inexpensive way" to find leaks.

Gov. Hickenlooper plans for the state to do a study on air quality around hydrocarbon production in the next year.

"Certainly the point of this was to make our air cleaner,” Hickenlooper said. “There's no denying we've had issues with air quality."

A task force formed by the governor's office to deal with wildfires and recently recommended statewide building codes and fees for homeowners that live in areas vulnerable to wildfires.

But those proposals have not made it into draft legislation for 2014.

"That's really for the legislature to hammer out," the Governor said. "The commission came out and presented it to the legislature, but right now there's nobody who wants to champion that."

But Hickenlooper thinks pressure will come from citizens groups or the insurance community to help usher in change.