WASHINGTON — At 2:57 p.m. EST yesterday, Rep. Ed Perlmutter stood in the well of the House chamber with the six other members of Colorado’s House delegation, glancing out at the hundreds of U.S. representatives who were prepared to stand in commemoration of those affected by the shooting massacre last Friday in Aurora.
The Lakewood Democrat represents the city, but he delivered a speech that made it sound as if his Democratic and Republican colleagues did too.
“In Colorado we consider ourselves to be pretty tough. Aurorans, the way we were — where this act took place, pretty tough. It hurts. We all hurt,” Perlmutter said. “But we’re resilient, and we will get through it, and the stories that some of those who are injured are sharing actually really do lighten the day. I know any one of us would be happy to talk to you all about that.”
After his three-minute speech ended, Perlmutter and his colleagues bowed their heads in silence.
The entire Colorado delegation, its members in the House and Senate, unite and work together on variety of issues. Yet when the Colorado representatives stepped off the House floor Tuesday afternoon, they remained divided on gun control.
Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez, who represents a battleground district in Western Colorado, indicated his opposition to new legislation to restrict or regulate gun rights.
“(Democratic) Gov. John Hickenlooper said it well: This was the work of a mad man,” Tipton said of the alleged shooter, James Holmes. “We’ve got laws on the books already. This man was intent on killing; he booby trapped his own apartment. Chicago has got a lot of stringent gun laws, and it still has crime.”
Gardner struck a note similar to Tipton, warning against new measures to curtail the sale or flow of guns. “It’s too early to politicize this. It’s time to let the people of Aurora heal,” he said in an interview.
In contrast to Tipton and Gardner, Perlmuter said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that he supports banning so-called assault weapons, such as the weapon that Holmes attempted to use Friday.
“You know, should we reinstate the assault weapons ban? I think we should, and I think that’s where it starts,” Perlmutter said. “We ought to be taking a look at how this guy was able to accumulate so much ammunition. He had enough ammunition for, like, a small army. There’s something wrong about that,” he said.
Critics, however, have charged that Perlmutter’s call for new legislation so soon after the shooting is tantamount to politicizing a national tragedy.
“Regardless of anyone’s views on gun control, Ed Perlmutter’s shameful rhetoric during this difficult time is hurtful,” said Tyler Q. Houlton, president of the conservative advocacy group Compass Colorado. “Ed Perlmutter should follow Governor Hickenlooper’s lead and stop exploiting this national tragedy.”
The representatives’ statements and positions reveal a delicate balancing act. Every member pledges support for the victims as well as their friends and family members. Yet the members disagree on attempts to prevent future victims and stop future perpetrators.
House Republican leaders have signaled their opposition to considering any new gun-control measures, and the White House has so far declined to openly advocate for new restrictions on gun rights.
“[The President] believes we need to take steps that protect Second Amendment rights of the American people but that ensure that we are not allowing weapons into the hands of individuals who should not, by existing law, obtain those weapons,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Perlmutter did not say Wednesday whether he would spearhead legislation to re-institute the assault weapons ban.