DENVER – The state Senate spent all day Friday hashing out Democratic gun control bills, and the chamber’s leaders made plans to stay in session past midnight for a debate that is drawing national attention.
By the afternoon, Democrats had won an initial vote on one of their top priority bills, House Bill 1229, which requires background checks for all gun sales.
They also had passed three other bills.
But the last three were the toughest and might not survive the debate. The bills include a 15-round limit on ammunition magazines, increased legal liability for many gun owners, and a ban on concealed weapons at colleges.
Republicans stretched their vocal cords to defeat them.
“The eyes of the nation are upon us. What we do today matters to everybody,” said Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray.
Although some states have stricter gun control laws, Colorado offers a test case on whether a moderate, pro-gun Western state will accept some of the same gun-control measures being considered in the U.S. Congress.
Colorado Democrats hold a 20-15 advantage in the Senate, so they can afford to lose only two votes. Several media outlets reported that at least three Democrats oppose some of the bills.
Sponsors of the ban on concealed weapons on college campuses were scrambling to shore up support Friday morning.
Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, had come out in support of only one of the bills by the afternoon – a requirement for in-person training to get a concealed weapons permit.
Roberts opposed a fee of about $10 on gun buyers to pay for their own background checks.
“It does smack of punitive action toward those who are purchasing a gun, and I think that’s the wrong way to go about this,” Roberts said.
Earlier this week, she said she was considering voting for a bill to confiscate guns from certain domestic violence offenders, but she said Friday that sheriffs had pointed out too many logistical problems.
“If I thought this bill would actually help a woman in a situation of domestic violence, I think I would vote for it,” Roberts said.
Democrats appeared to be unanimously behind the domestic violence bill, fending off an emotional attempt by Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, to delay it.
Cadman told a story of abuse at the hands of his father and said he wanted to vote for the bill, but it needed to be fixed.
“Do you know what it’s like to watch your 10-year-old brother get beat by a screwdriver? I do,” Cadman said.
Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said the Legislature is responding to voters’ desire to prevent more gun massacres.
“Today, we are putting forth a historic, functional plan that will affect change. The domestic violence bill is about as commonsense as it gets. I had hoped we would have had more bipartisan votes for it, but regardless, am satisfied that it’s moving forward,” Morse said in a prepared statement.
Friday’s debate was the first of two the Senate will hold on the bills. If any of the bills passes its initial vote, it could be brought up for a final Senate vote as soon as Monday.