Gov. John Hickenlooper acknowledged that “there are no easy solutions” to issues involving guns, but said a debate on how best to deal with …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
Gov. John Hickenlooper acknowledged that “there are no easy solutions” to issues involving guns, but said a debate on how best to deal with firearm-related violence is something “our democracy demands.”
The Democratic governor, addressing the General Assembly during his annual State of the State speech Jan. 10, also proffered his opinion on one area of gun control that is certain to be one of the most passionately debated topics lawmakers will take up this legislative session.
“Let me prime the pump,” Hickenlooper said. “Why not have universal background checks for all gun sales?”
That suggestion certainly caught the attention of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“It is just completely unenforceable,” House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, said of Hickenlooper’s call for all sales of guns — including those involving person-to-person transactions — be contingent on background checks.
But Democrats applauded the governor’s stance.
“He made some risky points,” said Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada. “He wasn’t afraid to jump into that.”
Gun control, one of many issues that legislators are expected to take up over the next five months of the session, was just one area that Hickenlooper addressed. Economic matters, civil unions and, of course, regulating the marijuana industry were also touched on during his 40-minute remarks.
Common ground sought
Taking on the issue of gun violence is a top agenda item for this Democratic-controlled General Assembly, especially on the heels of last year’s Aurora theater killings and the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. But just talking about guns has always been a dicey political issue, as the governor acknowledged.
“Some point to guns, others to a violent culture,” he said. “Still others believe that the line between community security and individual freedom must be re-drawn.”
In spite of those varying viewpoints, the governor urged action.
“Surely, Second Amendment advocates and gun control supporters can find common ground in support of this proposition: Let’s examine our laws and make the changes needed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”
Hickenlooper also sought “support for a comprehensive overhaul of our state’s mental health system,” something that he hopes can help mentally ill individuals get treatment before they commit gun crimes.
Republicans said there is a bipartisan consensus on dealing with mental health issues, but that Hickenlooper’s calls for universal background checks on gun sales is problematic. Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, called such an effort “a regulatory regime” that won’t do anything to curb gun violence.
“It makes people feel good, but it doesn’t do anything to solve the problem,” he said. Gardner also said that it’s unrealistic that “drug dealers on street corners are going to abide by that regime.”
But Democrats have the numbers this session, and are primed to move on guns.
“It’s a tough issue for everybody,” said Democratic Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood. “It’s a ‘let’s do everything’ approach. Let’s do background checks. Let’s support our citizens’ mental health needs.”
Civil unions could pass
Tyler also praised the comments on civil unions by Hickenlooper, who said: “Some of us tried very hard, but it didn’t get done last year. This year, let’s do it. Let’s pass civil unions.”
“The Legislature sometimes doesn’t get things done the first year,” Tyler said, referencing civil unions. “It’s been up and over and over again.”
With Democrats in charge, civil unions finally are expected to pass this session. However, Waller “wants to make sure that Democrats are being completely transparent with that bill,” arguing that language in civil union legislation shouldn’t contradict the existing gay marriage ban in the state Constitution.
Then there’s another big deal that elected officials will have to take up in the coming months.
“Oh yeah, Amendment 64,” Hickenlooper quipped, referring to November’s voter-approved legalization of recreational marijuana use. A task force is working on finding ways to regulate the marijuana industry and will forward its findings to legislators by the end of February.
Hickenlooper said it is important for the drug not to reach children, and he wants to expand DUI laws for those driving while impaired on marijuana. Waller, who is sponsoring a bill that deals with driving under the influence of marijuana, said he was pleased to hear the governor address that issue.
With so many hot-button issues coming up this session, it may be easy to lose focus of what Colorado residents perhaps want lawmakers to pay the most attention to over the next five months.
“We do know it’s the economy,” said Kraft-Tharp. “It’s jobs.”
Hickenlooper praised Colorado’s “economic rebound” following “a historic recession.” The governor said he wants to “keep improving and building on the foundation we have in place,” and that he plans to put forth a budget that “builds the state’s financial solvency.”
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.