DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper, speaking just hours after the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, said Friday it’s time for Colorado and the country to talk about new laws on gun violence.
The governor did not offer specific proposals, but the incoming Democratic president of the state Senate said assault weapons should be banned.
Hickenlooper first made his comments on gun laws just a day before the shooting in an interview with The Associated Press, saying enough time has passed since the Aurora theater shooting, which killed 12 and wounded 58 people.
“I wanted to have at least a couple of months off after the shooting in Aurora to let people process and grieve and get a little space, but ... I think, now ... the time is right,” Hickenlooper told the AP on Thursday.
In a news conference Friday, Hickenlooper admitted that the frequency of mass shootings makes it impossible to suspend the debate.
“I think we can’t postpone the discussion on the national level every time there’s a shooting,” he said.
Hickenlooper said several times Friday that the first step is to make sure people agree on the factual basis for the debate.
“When I say begin a conversation, what I’m really saying is begin to collect the facts and make sure we’re all playing from the same deck,” he said.
On Thursday, he said the discussion should include the availability of assault rifles and armor-piercing weapons.
The shooting cast a pall over an annual news conference that the governor and legislative leaders hold ahead of the annual session, which will start Jan. 9.
“There are no words that can adequately express what people feel,” Hickenlooper said.
Incoming Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, went the farthest in calling for stricter gun laws, especially high-capacity magazines and assault weapons like the AR-15.
“That gun’s not for protection, it’s for assault. It’s to go and take over a building,” said Morse, a former police officer.
“Do we want to even think about taking away everybody’s guns? Of course not. But we do need to think about having restrictions on these kinds of weapons,” Morse said.
Morse also said he expected to see bills that would allow college leaders to ban guns on campus and to restrict gun use by people who are mentally ill or have histories of domestic violence.
But Republicans are not on board, even though they are shocked by Friday’s shooting.
“Our position on this hasn’t changed,” said Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. “Most of our hearts are breaking, and my heart is in my throat right now because the first thing I thought was, ‘Where are my kids? Where are my kids?’”
Cadman knows that gun bills will be coming in the Legislature, but he doesn’t think laws are the solution.
“Someone somewhere is planning to do harm to somebody on any given day, and all the laws in the world aren’t going to stop it,” he said.