Democrats roll out gun-control package

Posted 2/5/13

Democratic state lawmakers on Feb. 5 unveiled a gun-control legislative package, which in part calls for required background checks for all gun …

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Democrats roll out gun-control package


Democratic state lawmakers on Feb. 5 unveiled a gun-control legislative package, which in part calls for required background checks for all gun buyers and strict liability for owners and sellers of assault weapons.

But the ideas aimed at curbing gun violence, which were announced by leaders of the General Assembly's controlling party during a morning press conference inside the state Capitol, were immediately met with stiff opposition by gun-rights advocates.

Democratic leaders — who were joined at the event by people whose lives have been affected by gun violence — announced eight pieces of “gun safety” legislation, which they said is needed in the wake of shooting massacres that continue to make headlines around the country.

“As a civilized society, we cannot stand back and wait for another Columbine, another Aurora,” said House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver.

Some of the efforts announced Tuesday came as no surprise — gun-control legislation has been high on the list of priorities for Democrats this session. But perhaps the bill that will cause the greatest amount of ire for Republicans and gun advocates is one aimed at creating strict financial liability for makers, sellers and owners of assault weapons.

Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, who will sponsor the Assault Weapon Responsibility Act, said his bill will make assault weapons makers, sellers and owners “liable for 100 percent of the damage” caused by “military style” assault weapons that are used in the commission of crimes.

“The sickness of violence is spreading through America like a plague,” Morse said.

Morse insisted that the legislation would not constitute a ban on assault weapons, and that it would not impact handguns, bolt action rifles and shotguns.

But Morse's bill was met with ridicule by conservatives.

“That's a frightening prospect,” said Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray. “I can't believe how extreme that is.”

Brophy quipped that the ban is a “clever,” back-door way of banning assault weapons because it would create an environment where gun makers would stop manufacturing their products out of concern for being held financially liable, if those weapons get in the wrong hands.

Brophy said that holding essentially every party associated with an assault weapon liable is akin to “holding Coors and 7-Eleven liable” when someone robs beer from a convenience store and then gets drunk and causes a drunken-driving accident.

Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said Morse's bill is “a functional ban” on assault weapons. He also said that people who commit gun crimes “should be held accountable the same way” as people who commit crimes with knives or other types of weapons.

The legislative package contains other types of gun control efforts. Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora — whose son was shot to death in 2005 before he was scheduled to testify in a murder trial — is sponsoring two bills that would require background checks for all gun buyers, as well as a ban on high-capacity magazines used in certain types of weapons.

“They have no place in our communities and they have no place in our streets,” Fields said of ammunition-feeding devices that accept more than 10 rounds of bullets.

Other Democratic bills would address mental health issues; keep domestic violence offenders from possessing guns; require in-person training for those who seek concealed carry permits; and take other actions.

Count Brophy and Brown among those who are staunchly opposed to all the efforts put forth by Democrats Tuesday.

“None of these ideas that (Democrats) were talking about today will make anybody safer,” Brophy said.

Brown said that he intends to pound the proverbial pavement in opposition to Democratic efforts'.

“We're going out in legislators' districts … and tell gun owners, `This is what (lawmakers) are doing to your rights,'” he said.

It's unknown at this time how many of the bills will end up being supported by the Democratic Party's leader, Gov. John Hickenlooper, who did not attend the Feb. 5 event.

Eric Brown, Hickenlooper's spokesman, said in an emailed statement: “The governor supports universal background checks and is open to a discussion about magazine limits and other ideas designed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

As for Morse's bill, the governor's office intends “to carefully study the liability legislation proposed by Sen. Morse and appreciate his effort to put a creative idea on the table.”

Hickenlooper was scheduled to meet with the president of the National Rifle Association Feb. 7, in a meeting that was set up prior to the lawmakers' press conference.

Democrats feel the public is on their side in this debate. Certainly, they have the support of at least a few people who lost loved ones in recent gun violence tragedies.

One of them is Jane Dougherty, a Denver resident whose sister, Mary Sherlock, a psychologist at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, was gunned down during the mass shooting that occurred there in December.

“She lost her life running toward a gunman, armed with an assault weapon, an AR-15,” Dougherty said at the press conference. “Assault weapons are weapons of war. They belong on the battlefield. They have no place in a home.

“We must do better,” she continued. “We must make changes. We are here to tell our elected leaders: Enough!”

colorado general assembly, mark ferrandino, john morse, #topsix


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