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Votes anger gun activists

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Chris Burnett, manager of Rocky Mountain Pawn & Gun, inspects an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round magazine. Burnett says sales have been strong as Colorado lawmakers consider restrictions.

By Joe Hanel , Shane Benjamin Herald staff writers

DENVER – The most controversial of Colorado Democrats’ gun bills – a ban on larger ammunition magazines – is on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper for final approval.

After voting for it, Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, came out swinging against a recall campaign that has targeted him.

At the same time, local gun supporters called the bill pointless, unenforceable and an affront to Second Amendment rights.

“It’s feel-good legislation, and all it’s doing is restricting more and more people’s rights,” said La Plata County Sheriff Duke Schirard. “It’s not going to accomplish anything.”

House Bill 1224 passed its final vote in the Legislature on Wednesday afternoon on a 34-30 margin, with three Democrats and all Republicans opposed. It bans the sale of ammunition magazines of more than 15 rounds.

Democrats said most of the mass shootings in the country since the 1980s have involved large-capacity magazines.

“I am sick and tired of the bloodshed. Whatever we can do to curb gun violence in our community, we have a responsibility to do that,” said the sponsor, Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.

But Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said the Legislature doesn’t have the right to question gun owners about why they want larger magazines.

“It is my right to have that standard firearm that is in common use, and you don’t have the right to take it from me,” McNulty said.

The bill would ban the sale of larger magazines after July 1, but owners could keep their current ones.

Fields originally wanted the limit set at 10 bullets, but McLachlan successfully amended it in February to raise the limit to 15. He later said he wanted to see a 30-round limit.

McLachlan voted again Wednesday for the 15-round limit and told the Herald he decided to support the bill after no Republicans stepped forward to help him raise the limit to 30.

He asked gun lobbyists to get Senate Republicans to try to raise the limit, but they were more interested in killing the bill than improving it, he said.

“The reason we’ve ended up where we are today is, in part, their fault because they never tried to put a 30-round limit forward,” McLachlan said.

The popular AR-15 assault rifle often is sold with a 30-round ammunition magazine.

Opponents have targeted McLachlan with a recall petition because of his votes on the gun bills. They have until about May 5 to collect more than 10,500 signatures from registered voters in McLachlan’s district.

McLachlan said he has received threatening and disparaging emails against his family.

“I’m not going to let them bully me. I’m not going to let them hold out a recall as a way to make me abandon the principles that I stand for and the reasons people elected me,” he said.

Schirard called the legislation one of the “most asinine things I’ve ever heard.”

A 15-round limit is an “arbitrary” figure, he said. There are millions of 20- and 30-round magazines that will be swapped between states, making the law “totally unenforceable,” he said.

Chris Burnett, manager at Rocky Mountain Pawn & Gun in Durango, said he has been flooded with questions from customers wanting to know if they’re allowed to possess high-capacity magazines and whether they can purchase them in New Mexico and bring them to Colorado.

“They want to be sure that they’re not possessing something that is illegal to have in the state of Colorado,” he said. “There’s just a lot of questions and uncertainty about exactly what they’re going to be able to do or not do with what they have.”

The legislation has been good for business, he said.

“I have sold thousands and thousands of 30-round magazines in the last three months,” he said. “Everybody who wants them has got them.”

Democrats had hoped to send a second bill to Hickenlooper’s desk Wednesday, which would require background checks for private-party gun sales. But Republicans pointed out problems with guns owned by family-owned companies, so the bill is going to a conference committee and could pass as soon as Friday.

Schirard said he has fewer issues with legislation to require background checks for private-party gun sales, as long as it excludes background checks for leaving guns to heirs.

Background checks should take into account a person’s mental health, he said.

“All of these mass shootings have been done by people with mental problems,” Schirard said.

But both bills are toothless and accomplish little, he said.

“All a person has to do is drive 20 miles south into New Mexico and you can do any of those things with impunity,” he said.


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