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Colorado gun control advocates respond to critics with more bills

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DENVER — Colorado Democrats, facing electoral recalls and tourism boycotts, have a response for those outraged by their ambitious gun control agenda: more gun bills.

The state legislature moved two more gun control bills to the governor's desk this week, and a third is expected to join them before the end of the session May 8. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three bills restricting firearms access in March, prompting a congratulatory visit from President Obama.

Colorado Democrats have certainly had more success in promoting gun-control measures than their political kin in Washington, where federal firearms bills have run aground. The difference is that in Colorado, Democrats hold the governor's office and both houses of the legislature.

"This has by far been the biggest attack on gun ownership in our state's history," said Joe Neville, political director for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which has fought the measures. "They've gone above and beyond anything we've seen before."

The latest bills would require domestic-violence offenders to surrender their firearms, create a task force to study ways to prevent those with mental health problems from obtaining guns, and ban gun owners from obtaining a concealed-carry permit via an online class.

Republicans say the domestic-violence bill will result in court-ordered gun confiscation. Federal law bans such offenders from possessing firearms, but provides no mechanism for courts to remove the guns.

"That's really what this bill is about: It's gun confiscation. That's the difference between this and what we have in current law," Republican state Rep. Lori Saine said during Friday's floor debate.

Democrats argued that other states have approved similar measures in order to protect victims of abuse and their children from further violence. Three states — California, Hawaii and Massachusetts — require those under temporary protective orders to turn over their guns. Several others also mandate the surrender of firearms under certain circumstances.

Last year, 13 people in Colorado were killed after gaining court protective orders against abusers, said Democratic state Rep. Beth McCann.

"The objective is to get the guns out of the home," said state Rep. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat. "When you combine domestic violence and guns, that is a lethal combo. Those two things do not mix."

House Minority Leader Mark Waller said the measure amounted to feel-good legislation that would make abuse victims no safer while potentially depriving law-abiding citizens of their constitutional rights.

"This bill is ripe for abuse, it's ripe for confiscation of personal private property, it's ripe for asserting that guns are the problem in society and not the people who use them," said Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman.

The legislature is also considering a bill that would create a task force to study how to prevent the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining firearms. That measure was approved by a House committee last week on a 6-5 party-line vote.

The latest flurry of gun bills was unaccompanied by the massive shows of protest by gun rights supporters, who flooded the state Capitol in February and March to testify against the measures. Foes of gun control are still out there, said Mr. Neville, but their focus has switched to defeating Democratic legislators instead of trying to change their minds.

"You might not see the dog-and-pony show like we had before, but people are still out there," said Mr. Neville. "We're still hearing from them. They're just more involved now at the local level."

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