DENVER | The Colorado House approved four gun-control bills Monday after lobbying by the White House and in spite of warnings that they would drive firearms and ammunition manufacturers out of the state.
All four bills were passed without Republican support, although a handful of Democrats from rural or swing districts crossed party lines to oppose the measures. The most dramatic moment of the four-hour session came when Republicans stood to honor Democratic state Rep. Ed Vigil as he announced that he would vote against the bills.
"My conscience is clear that I am doing the right thing for Colorado and for the people of Colorado," said Mr. Vigil. "This is part of our heritage."
Given that Democrats outnumber Republicans by 37-28, however, the outcome of the votes was never in doubt. The bills now head to the Senate, where Democrats hold a 20-15 majority and are expected to approve the measures.
Officials from two Colorado ammunition companies, Magul Industries and Alfred Manufacturing, indicated last week that they would relocate if a bill limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds were signed into law, even though Democrats amended the bill to exempt manufacturers.
That measure, House Bill 1224, won approval Monday on a 34-31 vote. The other three bills advancing would mandate universal background checks, require gun buyers to pay for their background checks, and ban concealed-carry permit holders from bringing guns into buildings on public college campuses.
"Enough is enough. I'm sick and tired of the bloodshed," said Democratic state Rep. Rhonda Fields, whose district includes the Aurora theater where 12 people were killed and dozens were injured in a mass shooting in July. "Limiting high-capacity magazines to 15 rounds will make our communities less dangerous."
Vice President Joseph R. Biden called a handful of swing lawmakers Friday while on vacation in Aspen, urging them to support the gun-control package, but Mrs. Fields said the White House was not involved in her decision to push for legislation.
"After the horrible events that happened in Aurora, I was compelled to do something," she said. "It was way before the White House initiative to address gun violence. So this is not something that was based on some White House-Washington influence."
Still unclear is whether Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper will sign the bills. The governor has said he supports limiting magazine rounds and charging gun buyers for background checks, although he has not said whether he supports the House versions.
Republicans argued that the bills would have no impact on public safety but would cost the state hundreds of jobs, violate the Second Amendment rights of Coloradans, and inevitably lead to mass gun registration.
Republican state Rep. Chris Holbert said gun owners will be unable to prove whether they passed a background check unless their firearm purchase is recorded in a state database. State agencies now delete information from background checks within 24 hours.
"It is clear that this bill is either totally misguided and people don't understand what they're doing, or it's completely intentional and it leads to registration," he said. "That's not black helicopters, as was mentioned earlier, that's blatantly obvious. And the people of Colorado know it. The voters understand what we're doing here."
Republican state Rep. Lori Saine likened requiring gun buyers to pay for their background checks to a poll tax. Both charge citizens a fee in order to exercise a constitutional right, she said.
"A fee that is rendered on a right such as this can't be anything other than a poll tax," said Mrs. Saine, noting that the bill contains no limit on the amount of the fee. "This will suppress gun ownership. It will discourage people from owning weapons."
Her comparison drew an objection from Democratic state Rep. Jovan Melton, who pointed out that the poll tax was used in the South and applied to voters based on race. "I can't choose to be black, but people can choose whether or not to buy a gun," he said.
Democrats aren't finished with guns yet. They announced earlier this month a proposed eight-bill package that includes a measure to create strict liability for gun manufacturers, distributors and owners.
"You're going to see a series of several bills, because we see this as an incremental approach to address gun violence," said Mrs. Fields.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.