Updated: March 20, 2013 at 12:00 am
DENVER • Mourning the shooting death of a member of his cabinet the night before, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three bills aimed at reducing gun violence Wednesday morning.
The measures take hold July 1st, just less than a year after the Aurora theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded 58 others.
“We as a community tried to process the shooting that took place last July in a dark movie theatre. We spent a great deal of time, thinking, talking to people, and trying to look at what could we as a state do to address some of these issues,” Hickenlooper told reporters after signing the bills in his office. “We have signed today several bills that materially will make our state safer in the long-run and allow us to begin to address some of these issues head-on.”
It will be illegal in Colorado to purchase or possess a magazine obtained after July 1st that holds more than 15-rounds of ammunition. Those who now own high-capacity magazines will be able to keep them under a grandfather clause.
Most private gun sales or transfers will require a background check at a licensed gun dealer.
And gun buyers will pay a fee for their background checks.
Hickenlooper signed the bills immediately after holding a press conference about the killing of Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Corrections Department.
Clements was fatally shot Tuesday night after answering the door to his Monument home. El Paso County sheriff’s deputies were looking for clues in the case and no arrests had been made.
Hickenlooper was careful to avoid linking the Clements slaying and the bill-signing.
But Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, didn’t shy away from connecting the events.
“This legislative session became about guns, but it wasn’t planed that way,” said Senate President John Morse, a former Fountain police chief. “It was forced upon us by two horrific massacres in one year, one in our own back yard. It’s been an exhausting and emotionally draining session and on the day we should be celebrating the signing of these three bills to make our community safer, I’m mourning the loss of yet one more person to this senseless violence that’s plaguing our entire country.”
Democrats introduced seven gun bills in response to the Aurora shooting.
Two of the bills were withdrawn, three were signed Wednesday and the other two are still going through the legislative process.
Gun advocates and lawmakers opposed to the regulations argued the new laws would do nothing to reduce gun violence and would infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding people.
Hickenlooper issued a bill signing statement that he said would help alleviate concerns over the interpretation of some of the laws by expressing intent that they be narrowly interpreted and enforced.
Senator Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said it doesn’t matter what the intent of the laws are, but the letter of the laws are broad and sweeping.
“They criminalize day-to-day activities of probably hundreds of thousands of Coloradoans who like to take a 17-round Glock to the range and hand it to their buddy,” Brophy said. “And that’s a narrow interpretation of the law. If you go with a broad definition every detachable magazine once it leaves my hands to go into someone else’s hands is an illegal transfer of a banned magazine.”
Hickenlooper said at first he was ambivalent about the high-capacity magazine ban, but he said the bill doesn’t confiscate any firearms, and allows people to continue possessing magazines they already have.
“What it does do is it bans the future sale of firearms or magazines that can be readily convertible to accept more than 15 ... bullets or 28 inches of shotgun shells,” he said. “It’s that simple. High-capacity magazines have the potential to turn killers into killing machines.”
Hickenlooper has pushed for universal background checks since his State of the State address in January.
“Background checks have great benefit,” he said. “People say to me … criminals aren’t stupid they aren’t going to sign up for background checks, well no one told criminals that.”
Hickenlooper said more than 200 people who last year showed up to buy their newly-purchased gun and were arrested because the background check turned up a warrant.
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