Federally mandated background checks for all gun purchases, among other things, could curb the rising tide of shooting deaths in America, said Stephany Spaulding, the underdog Democrat challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn for Colorado’s 5th District.
Spaulding offered her ideas on gun safety to dozens Tuesday night in Colorado College’s Celeste Theater. She was joined on stage by Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a national nonprofit advocating gun control.
Growing up on Chicago’s south side, Spaulding said, her brother and niece were held up at gunpoint on separate occasions. She said both instances caused her to fear for the safety of her family, a fear that has grown over the years.
“We have eroded the responsibility of what it means to be owners of firearms,” she said. “And for me that is not ‘Can I take away?’ or ‘Should I take away your guns?’ but asking people to be responsible.”
That responsibility could come in a federal mandate that anyone seeking to buy a firearm would have to pass a background check, Spaulding said.
Such a mandate across all 50 states could halve the number of suicides, domestic and police shootings across the country, Watts said.
Although momentum in favor of gun control legislation is growing, Watts said the advocacy work is trying.
“I didn’t realize there was this underbelly of American culture that would immediately start to threaten my lives, threaten sexual violence against me and my daughters, just because I wanted stronger gun laws,” she said.
Spaulding — who is running to become the first Democrat, first woman and first African-American elected to the conservative district — also wants national red-flag laws that would allow friends or family members to contact law enforcement if a gun owner they know is likely to commit a crime.
Depending on the circumstances, officers then could take possession of the flagged owner’s firearms for 30, 60 or 90 days, pending a mental health evaluation, said Spaulding. Once an owner is cleared, he could retrieve the firearms, and no related charges would appear on his record.
Spaulding also said she wants to expand the definition of domestic violence, a significant indicator of those who might commit gun violence. In tandem with that legislation, she wants to ensure that those convicted of domestic violence could not own firearms.
Beverly Wenger and Tom Cunningham, among the dozens attending her town hall, said they agree with Watts and Spaulding.
“These are no-brainer issues,” Cunningham said.
“It’s very necessary,” Wenger agreed.
Both clarified that such laws wouldn’t take away anyone’s guns but would ensure that gun owners are suited to the significant responsibility.
Lamborn has fought strongly to uphold gun rights. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but his congressional website details his opposition to gun-control legislation passed by President Barack Obama’s administration.
“Unfortunately, during the last administration President Obama used executive orders to restrict law abiding citizens’ access to firearms,” the site says. “Instead of developing a coherent strategy to keep the American people safe from attacks by criminals and terrorists, the actions proposed by President Obama did little to make us safer and only inhibited the efforts of Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
Obama had ordered that background checks include mental health records of would-be gun buyers and that more federal investigations be conducted into illegal online weapons trafficking, among other edicts.