Colorado appears to be in the crosshairs of an NRA campaign to derail gun control legislation.
In a Dec. 22 Legislative Alert, the National Rifle Association warns members that for supporters of gun control, the state is a “guinea pig to push through ineffective and illogical gun control laws at the state level.” The alert urges members to contact Gov. John Hickenlooper and state legislators.
“There has already been serious discussion by some Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly to ban commonly-owned semi-automatic rifles, ban high capacity magazines, ban online sales of ammunition, restrict private sales and reverse the state Supreme Court ruling on campus carry,” the alert says.
Since Dec. 13, when Hickenlooper’s call for a discussion on gun control was made public, the governor’s office has received more than 2,000 comments on gun issues, according to an emailed statement from spokeswoman Megan Castle.
“The governor has said that he is open to discussion on gun issues,” she said.
Behind the focus on Colorado, said Tom Mauser, spokesman for Colorado Ceasefire, is the state’s success in passing gun control legislation.
“I think that’s a big one,” he said. “We passed Amendment 22. That is very significant.”
Amendment 22 established background checks at gun shows in Colorado.
“Add to that the tragedies that have happened in the state and I think there’s good reason for us being a focal point,” he said.
The NRA did not return telephone calls and emails.
Local members, however, are girding for battle.
“If they get our guns here, they will get guns everywhere else,” said Martin Wade, a Monument resident, gun advocate and NRA member since 1955. He also is a founding member of The 57th Patriot, a constitutionalist group based in Colorado Springs with 500 members.
Bernie Herpin, treasurer for the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, a Colorado Springs pro-gun group with 200 members, agreed that Colorado is shaping up to be a key battleground state.
“We will take a position once we see the bills and I suspect we would oppose them,” he said.
They may not have long to wait.
Colorado State Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, has reserved a name for a bill she expects to submit in January. She’s a member of a group considering gun control that was sparked by the mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater July 20 that left 12 dead and 58 wounded.
“We have been looking at a list of gun reform from clips to assault weapons, mental health issues, CBI checks for private sales to domestic violence,” she said. “We have looked at a comprehensive list of ideas and nailed them down to what is realistic for Colorado.”
Fields said her goal is to submit a bill that enhances public safety, but at the same time protects Second Amendment rights.
“I just want to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a struggle. We have to come up with legislation that is really balanced.”
Fields said three or four gun bills are likely to be introduced. One will address assault weapons.
“I think we are in a prime position to lead the nation as it relates to gun policy reform,” she said.
Colorado, said Ladd Everitt, spokesman for Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence “has always been important.”
“One of the most seminal reforms that we’ve seen in recent U.S. history occurred when Colorado closed the gun show loophole after Columbine,” he said. “Politically, Colorado is seen as a bellwether.”
Charles Knight, also a founding member of The 57th Patriot, predicts “one heck of a fight.”
“I don’t think gun control has anything to do with guns,” Knight said. “It has to do with control. That’s the bottom line. If they take guns away, that’s one more step to controlling the people.”
It’s difficult to get a read how gun control will fare in Colorado, Mauser said.
Bills are being prepared as gun sales are skyrocketing.
As of Dec. 21, there were 11,700 people waiting for background checks to be cleared to buy guns with a wait time of seven days, said Susan Medina, spokeswoman for the CBI.
Dave and Emily Williams are on the list. They have a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun at home for protection, but it’s too large for Emily’s hand. They found the Sig Sauer 9 mm that they bought at Paradise Sales Friday a perfect fit.
Dave plans to buy a couple more guns, an urge sparked by the Aurora theater shooting, and wants to obtain concealed carry permits for himself and his wife.
“I’d love to buy a semi-automatic AR-15, but those are going like hotcakes so in the meantime I plan to buy a 1911 and a Glock, ” he said.
Dave said he believes gun control is responsible for the explosion in shootings.
“Criminals do not obey the law, so there’s no sense in disarming law abiding citizens from protecting themselves,” he said. “I don’t want my wife or myself becoming a victim.”
For Everitt, it’s enough that the climate seems to have shifted favorably toward gun control. Hundreds of volunteers want to join the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
“I can see why they (NRA) are nervous,” Everitt said. “Part of Gov. Hickenlooper’s remarks came before Newtown happened. Let the battle begin there.”