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Colorado Senate Republicans sink bump stock ban, advance magazine limit repeal

March 19, 2018 Updated: March 20, 2018 at 6:04 am
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FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2017, file photo, a device called a "bump stock" is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah. Some states and cities are taking the lead on banning bump stocks as efforts stall in Washington. The controversial device was used in the Las Vegas shooting, allowing a semi-automatic rifle to mimic a fully automatic firearm. Gun-control advocates say the push fits a pattern in gun politics: inaction in Washington that forces states to take charge. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

In the same committee hearing Monday afternoon, Senate Republicans rejected a ban on bump stocks - devices that give legal rifles the ability to fire more bullets like an illegal one - and advanced a bill to repeal the 15-round limit on ammunition magazines passed by Democrats in 2013.

Senate Bill 51, sponsored by Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, to ban bump stocks in Colorado died on a party-line vote before the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. Denver, other cities and other states have passed, or are considering, bump stock bans.

"We can't afford to wait on the federal government to take action," Merrifield said. "It's time for us to stand up for our fellow Coloradans."

However, Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, took an opposing stance: "Government rarely can make a significant impact on these big issues. Law-abiding citizens are usually the ones who are impacted, and those who willfully disobey the law cannot be controlled by this."

To Hill and others, it's a deeply held philosophy of the role of government.

"I pledged to my constituents I would come up here and defend as constantly, as consistently and as articulately as possible this idea of freedom," he said. "And in this case I think freedom is the side I fall down on."

Hill sponsored Senate Bill 52 to repeal the magazine limit, which passed the Republican-led committee Monday and should make it out of the Senate, if the majority has its way. But, as Hill acknowledged, it has no chance whatsoever in the Democratic-held House.

"I don't think there are any secrets about what's going to happen to this bill," he told the Senate committee. "I don't think we're shifting opinions much. There's a deep divide."

Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver, who co-sponsored the Colorado's 2013 gun control bills, replied, "It is a statement of our values."

Bump stocks rose to prominence nationally after a dozen of the devices were used by Stephen Paddock to kill 58 people and injure hundreds of others at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas last October.

Opponents of the devices say they are a cheap and relatively easy way to get around federal regulations on the sale of fully automatic weapons.

But opponents of the ban said they will still be available from other states, so an individual state law would do little to stop them.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle testified in favor of a Colorado ban on bump stocks.

"They present a tremendous challenge to law enforcement when in use," he told the committee. "I think this is a no-brainer."

The debate on both bills was emotional, as the annual debate on gun bills are each year, as the families of victims testify. It was also politically charged, with both sides questioning the other's agenda in the nearly five hours of testimony.

Several called out the Republicans and asserted they were in the pocket of the gun lobby. Colorado Politics' Marianne Goodland reported last week on the National Rifle Association's investments in Colorado politics, which was mainly with Republicans in the congressional delegation, not at the state level.

Said Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, "You have made some assumptions against certain people, and you cannot impugn the integrity of people because you think something, because what you're thinking isn't true." she said. "If you want to say I'm in the pocket of anyone, you are wrong."

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