Colorado Democrats stand ground on embattled state gun control laws

Republicans push politely for repeal or revision

DENVER — Colorado Democrats have shown no interest in reworking the gun control bills that led to last year’s grass-roots revolt and historic recall elections, shooting down every Republican attempt so far to repeal or revise the measures.

Republicans were dealt their latest defeat Monday night when the state legislature’s “kill committee” rejected on a party-line 7-4 vote a bill to repeal the heavily criticized 15-round limit on ammunition magazine capacity.


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After the vote, state Rep. Chris Holbert, a Republican who sponsored the proposed repeal, accused the Democrats of continuing “their crusade against law-abiding citizens with no facts to support their legislation.”

“The Democrats on this committee killed a bill that had bipartisan support in the legislature and majority support in the state Senate and among the population of Colorado,” Mr. Holbert said in a Tuesday statement. “Preventing this bill from moving forward is further proof that Democrats are not interested in listening to Colorado.”

Republicans had vowed to try to overturn last year’s gun control measures even though Democrats still control both houses of the legislature. Last week, Senate Democrats killed a bill to repeal last year’s law extending background checks to all private sales and transfers.

Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said nobody has been surprised by the votes, yet they serve a purpose. For Republicans, the defeats remind voters of the Democratic Party’s support for gun control, an issue sure to be leveraged during the November elections.

Republicans are desperate to capture a majority in at least one house of the legislature, now controlled by Democrats.

“[Republicans] will certainly be able to campaign on, ‘These individuals did this, they have no intention of backing up and, frankly, if they get more power, they’ll probably go forward even further,’” Mr. Ciruli said.

At the same time, the gun bill hearings give Democrats a chance to improve their image after criticism for cutting off testimony during last year’s hearings.

“They’ve convinced themselves that this was mostly about bad procedure. This year, it’s, ‘Be low-key and be polite,’” said Mr. Ciruli. “But they’re not backing up 1 inch and, frankly, they think that if they did, they’d double lose, because they would then lose their core constituents and, believe me, none of these Republicans would ever vote for them.”

The Democrat-controlled legislature passed the gun control measures in March, with no Republican votes, in reaction to the 2012 mass shootings at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Monday’s five-hour hearing included testimony from family members of victims of the Aurora and Newtown shootings, who urged the committee to keep the magazine limit on the books.

“Magazine sizes greater than the 15-round limit that was passed as a law here in Colorado still I feel do not have any place in the society we live in, and nothing has changed in my mind this past year to change that,” said Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed by a gunman at the Century 16 theater.

Law enforcement officials say it’s impossible tell which magazines were grandfathered in before the law went into effect in July and which were purchased afterward.

“This ban literally turned thousands of law-abiding gun owners into criminals,” said Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, one of 54 county sheriffs who filed a federal lawsuit last year against the magazine limit.

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