Updated: February 14, 2014 at 8:37 am
A freshman Colorado Springs lawmaker apologized Thursday for a gaffe he said was insensitive to the families of 12 victims in the Aurora shooting.
Sen. Bernie Herpin, a Republican, said he was trying to make a point about how last year's Democrat-sponsored gun laws have been ineffective in reducing gun violence.
"There's nothing I can say to relieve their pain; I certainly didn't intend to add to their pain," Herpin said.
But talk of his comments has spread rapidly and so has the criticism.
While Herpin was defending his bill that would repeal a ban on high-capacity magazines, he pointed out that 100-round drums are historically unreliable and shooting suspect James Holmes left the theatre after his gun jammed.
"Perhaps James Holmes would not have been able to purchase a 100-round magazine," Herpin said. "As it turned out that was maybe a good thing that he had a 100-round magazine because it jammed. If he had instead had 4, 5, 6, 15 round magazines there's no telling how much damage he could have done until a good guy with a gun showed up."
Senate President Morgan Carroll, a Democrat from Aurora, said the remarks she heard on recording rendered her speechless.
"My community still hasn't fully recovered from this," Carroll said. "The wounds on this go very deep. I think there's been a lot of this debate that's been very difficult for Aurora to do."
That debate has been a year-long heated battle over gun regulations in Colorado.
Things have been ugly on both sides of the issue.
Last year Democrats passed five gun laws, including one that banned sales or transfers of gun magazines that hold more than 15 bullets, in part responding to the carnage that occurred in Aurora and in a Newtown, Conn. elementary school.
In September two lawmakers were ousted from office including former Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, who had supported and introduced gun control legislation.
Herpin ran against Morse in the recall and was elected to replace him.
Upon taking office, Herpin pledged to try and undo the gun legislation, particularly the magazine ban. His efforts ended in committee Wednesday with Democrats quashing the effort, but his comments will likely live on.
Former Sen. Evie Hudak learned that lesson the hard way.
The Democrat from Arvada resigned just before session started under threat of recall.
A large part of the effort to recall her focused on her tactless comments during a gun debate last year when she was questioning a rape victim that was testifying against guns being banned from college campuses.
"I just want to say that, actually statistics are not on your side even if you had a gun," Hudak said during the hearing. "And, chances are that if you would have had a gun, then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you."
The outcry against Hudak was enough to also kill the bill that would have prohibited concealed carry on college campuses.
Both Herpin and Hudak were victims of a popular political strategy - latch onto a damning statement and make sure everyone knows how outraged you are and how hurt the victims are.
Herpin said he did feel that his comments were taken out of context in some media reports.
"And yes, that comes with the territory," he said. "When you're sitting at the witness table you sometimes say things not the way you meant to say them."
Carroll said it's up to Herpin's district how they will respond to the comments.
"I don't think it's a smart thing to say," Carroll said. "You can't judge anyone person probably by one comment or one vote, but especially in these very competitive, close seats you are living under a microscope. And I think all of us realize we stand be judged by what we do and what we say."
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