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Colorado Dems want to hold gunmakers liable in attacks

MEGAN SCHRADER Updated: February 5, 2013 at 12:00 am

DENVER — Surrounded by the survivors and the families of victims from three of the most horrific mass murders in U.S. history, Democrats on Tuesday unveiled their blue print for comprehensive gun-control legislation.

In addition to often talked about measures such as universal background checks for all gun purchases and limiting high-capacity magazines to 10 rounds of ammunition, a new bill was promised — one that would make gun owners, sellers and manufacturers strictly liable for the death and destruction caused by military style assault rifles.

Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said his bill would ensure that in the future the manufacturers and sellers of assault weapons such as those used in Aurora and Sandy Hook will be held responsible for the events in civil court.

That liability will result in industry changes on how the weapons are manufactured and sold, he said.

“There’s enough profit here that they can figure out how to get this accomplished,” said Morse, former Fountain chief of police. “The classic case, if you will, of strict liability is transporting dynamite. You are strictly liable — if something goes wrong it’s up to you. Does that mean we don’t transport dynamite? No, we’ve found ways to make sure nothing ever goes wrong.”

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, called Morse’s proposal the most egregious of the extreme gun control policies presented Tuesday.

He likened it to holding a brewery, the distributor and the convenience store responsible for a drunken driving crash.

“There are real consequences to passing bills like these,” Brophy said.

Morse said he is a week away from filing the actual language of his bill.

Other bills are closer to being ready.

Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, said she will introduce a bill that would limit high-capacity magazines to 10 rounds of ammunition — a move that she said would save lives when attacks occur.

“High capacity magazines are designed for one thing, to kill large numbers of people as quickly as possible,” Fields said. “They are weapons of war.”

Brophy countered that limiting the magazines would do nothing to prevent their use, pointing out they are sold as standard issue with assault weapons and are prevalent on the streets.

And if they ban them, Brophy said, criminals will only make their own.

“Barring this is only going to keep law abiding citizens from having them, it wouldn’t keep them out of the hands of criminals,” he said.

Soldiers are given 30-bullet magazines, Fields said, while James Holmes used a 100-round magazine — that reportedly jammed — when he killed 12 people in an Aurora movie theater last summer.

Among those killed in the theater shooting was Jessica Watt’s cousin Jonathan Blunk, a Navy veteran and father of two.

Watts, 28, detailed how gun violence has impacted her life, starting with her husband attending Columbine High School when the 1999 massacre occurred.

She said he wasn’t hurt physically but they have dealt with the emotional scars of that event.

Then in 2006, a girl she babysat for, Emily Keyes, was killed in a hostage situation at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey.

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino called Watts’ story “a sad commentary on the pervasiveness of gun violence in America.”

Ferrandino said Democrats also will seek a mandatory background check for all gun sales including those that occur between private parties.

He said lawmakers also are drafting legislation to address mental health needs in Colorado, including funding for state programs and other needs.

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Proposed Gun Laws

These eight laws were proposed Tuesday by Democrats in the House and Senate but have not been filed as legislation.

• Assault Weapons Liability — would make manufacturers, sellers, owners or possessors of military assault firearms, strictly liable for any death or injury resulting from the weapon.

• Universal Background Checks — would require background checks for all gun buyers, including those who purchase from individual sellers, and would enhance mental health sharing data between state and federal agencies.

• High-Capacity Magazine Ban — A ban on the sale or ownership of any ammunition feeding devices capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

• Mental Health Support — would direct mental health professionals to notify the Colorado Bureau of Investigation of individuals who are a danger to themselves or others so they could be put in a database and rendered unable to purchase a firearm.

• Domestic Violence Prohibition — would prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence or currently under a protective order from possessing firearms.

• In-Person Training — Prohibits training online for concealed carry permits.

• Background Check Fee — establishes a $10 fee for anyone undergoing a background check from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to obtain a firearm.

• Campus Safety — prohibits concealed carry on college campuses in Colorado.

Contact Megan Schrader: 719-286-0644 Twitter @CapitolSchrader

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