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Efforts to widen access to firearms killed in Colorado Legislature

5 bills shot down on party-line votes
A House committee controlled by Democrats on Monday killed a package of bills aimed at expanding access to firearms and repealing gun control from 2013.

DENVER – Colorado Democrats on Monday once again shot down Republican attempts to expand access to firearms, in what has become an annual affair in the Legislature.

The Democratic-controlled House State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee – used as a “kill committee” by controlling parties – defeated each of the five bills on 5-4 party-line votes during a more than seven-hour hearing.

The package included:

House Bill 1024, which would have rolled back a 2013 law pushed by Democrats that prohibited high-capacity ammunition magazines of more than 15 rounds.

House Bill 1204, which would have allowed concealed-carry on school campuses in an attempt to address so-called “gun-free zones.”

House Bill 1023, which would have extended the state’s “make my day” law to businesses by allowing the use of deadly force against an intruder.

House Bill 1179, which would have exempted military members from the state’s concealed carry law.

Senate Bill 17, which would have allowed gun owners to carry a concealed firearm without a permit.

The issue hit a boiling point in 2013 when Democrats, in addition to the ban on high-capacity magazines, also passed a measure that required universal background checks.

So far this year, Republicans have not introduced a bill to repeal universal background checks, which gun-control advocates view as progress.

Still, the gun control world sees it necessary to continue fighting each year against measures that seek to expand access to firearms.

“The bills are dead, they just don’t know it,” said Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire, who referred to the gun measures as “zombie bills” at a news conference prior to the bills being heard in committee.

“The people who are here today are on the front lines against the zombie apocalypse,” McCarron quipped.

Gun-control advocates pointed to statistics in 2014, when 647 people in Colorado died from gun violence. Nationally, more than 33,000 people die each year from guns, fewer than from automobile accidents.

Voters in the Durango area are familiar with the subject, as it often spills into legislative races. Republican Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, took his seat back from Democrat Mike McLachlan in 2014 after McLachlan supported the 2013 package of gun-control measures.

“The reality of those laws being repealed probably isn’t very good, but it’s still something that I think we need to continue to work for,” Brown said.

The Ignacio lawmaker was deposed in a lawsuit filed by county sheriffs seeking to repeal the 2013 laws. Brown, a sheepherder, was asked to provide information related to the hurdles he faces conducting background checks for foreign herders whom he hires.

The lawsuit is working its way through the appellate process.

Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, who carried the measure to allow handguns in schools, said the issue is about safety.

“I, for one, am tired of sending my daughters to school on blind faith that they will return home from a place where people are prevented by state law from equipping themselves to protect my daughters,” Neville said.

But Jane Dougherty, whose sister Mary Sherlach was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, said gun-free zones are not the problem.

“Here we are again, another session, another attempt to repeal ... ” Dougherty said. “We will continue to show up year after year, if we must, to work to keep the guns out of the hands that will do us harm.”


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