Colorado Senate OKs gun control bills

2013-03-12 15:04
Gun control demonstration. (File, AP)

Gun control demonstration. (File, AP)

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Denver — A gun control package pushed by Colorado Democrats cleared the state Senate on Monday, as sponsors described it as a needed response to Colorado's blood-soaked history of mass shootings.

The Democratic gun control package in Colorado is being watched nationally to see how a politically moderate state with a gun-loving past responds to the recent mass shootings in suburban Denver and in Connecticut.

One Democrat after another rose on Monday to talk about restricting gun rights after last July's shooting at a suburban Denver cinema. The vote came on the eve of an expected plea by the alleged gunman, James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and injuring dozens more.

The measures approved by the Senate included a limit on the kinds of high-capacity ammunition magazines Holmes is accused of using in the cinema shooting. Other measures included expanded background checks on private gun sales and a new ban on gun ownership for people facing domestic violence charges.

On the national level, President Barack Obama has proposed expanded background checks for gun purchases and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines in response to the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six adults. The measures are now being considered in the Senate.

Republicans argued in vain that the gun controls would not have prevented the cinema shooting, nor the elementary school massacre last December in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six adults. Some cited the 1999 Columbine High School shootings outside Denver.

Background check fee

Democrats stood firm.

"We can't get back the kids we lost, but can refuse to send them more," argued Democratic Senator Mike Johnston.

Only one of the five bills heads to Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper to be signed into law. The remaining four must return to the state House for more debate, including the ammunition magazine limit and the domestic violence bill. The House is under Democratic control and will likely approve the measures.

Hickenlooper has said he supports the one bill awaiting his signature, a revived fee for people seeking background checks by gun purchasers. Hickenlooper has also called for expanded background checks and has said he'd sign the magazine limit if lawmakers get it to him.

Republicans tried in vain to stop parts of the gun control package. They argued longest against the magazine ammunition limit.

"It's not going to work, and I hate to say that," concluded Republican Senator Mark Scheffel. "What it will do is infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens."

No excuse

However, Republicans only succeeded in picking off two of the three Democratic defectors they needed to defeat the ammunition limit. They warned that the gun controls are feel-good measures that won't make Colorado safer.

"Which of these bills we've voted on today would have prevented these tragedies?" asked Republican Senator Owen Hill.

Democrats insisted that lawmakers have no excuse after the recent mass shootings not to tighten gun restrictions.

"If we fail to do a common-sense measure ... then shame on us," said Senate Democratic Leader Morgan Carroll, whose district includes the Aurora cinema.

Democratic Senate President John Morse said on Monday he was proud that his caucus was promoting measures to reduce gun violence.

"We will make a difference and increase gun safety in Colorado and decrease gun violence," Morse said.

The remaining gun bill headed to the House requires increased training for a concealed-weapons permit. That measure has had support from both parties and is thought likely to clear the House.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us  |  gun control

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