March 13, 2013
DENVER — Fiercely debated ammunition limits cleared Colorado's Democratic Legislature on Wednesday and were on their way to the governor, who has said he'll sign the measure into law.
The 15-round magazine limit would make Colorado the first state outside the East Coast to ratchet back gun rights after last year's mass shootings.
Colorado's gun-control debates have been closely watched because of the state's gun-loving frontier heritage and painful history of mass shootings, most recently last summer's movie theater shooting that killed 12.
"I am sick and tired of the bloodshed," said Rep. Rhonda Fields, sponsor of the ammunition limit and a Democrat whose suburban Denver district includes the theater. "Whatever we can do to curb the gun violence and the bloodshed, we have a responsibility to do that."
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he is ambivalent about the magazine ammunition limit but will sign it. The law gives him 10 business days to do so.
"I wasn't enthusiastic about it, but I'd be willing to sign it," Hickenlooper said Wednesday morning on Denver radio station KOA.
Still pending in the Legislature is the Democrats' other signature gun-control bill, which would require background checks for private and online gun sales. Hickenlooper has more enthusiastically backed that measure, and it was scheduled for a final vote Wednesday.
But a dispute over a Senate amendment has delayed the background-check for at least another day while lawmakers iron out the problem. Democrats are trying to change the bill so that gun owners can give guns to relatives or lend them for short periods without triggering the background-check requirements.
The background-check measure is expected to clear the Legislature, and Republicans have spent hours fretting that rugged Colorado is forsaking its heritage by debating gun restrictions more common to coastal states.
To make the point, Republican Rep. Carole Murray of suburban Castle Rock reminded the House that rural lawmakers once posed for official photos wearing cowboy hats.
"Our state is changing," Murray said. "We are an outdoorsy state, and part of being outdoorsy is ownership of firearms."
Democrats repeatedly cited the Aurora theater shooting and last year's massacre at a Connecticut school as reasons Colorado must take action.
"How many more mass shootings in schools and movie theaters do we have to see before we make changes?" asked Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.
Two bills in the gun package have not yet faced votes in the House and were just starting consideration Wednesday. Those measures included a ban on online-only gun education required to receive a concealed-weapons permit, and a ban on gun ownership by people facing domestic violence charges.
The fifth and final bill in the Democrats' gun package went to the governor earlier this week. That measure would revive user fees, likely $10, for gun buyers who need background checks. Currently the Colorado Bureau of Investigation does those checks for free and faces a lengthy backlog.
The governor has two business weeks to sign the fee bill, or it becomes law without his signature. Hickenlooper has said he'll sign it.
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt