DENVER–Colorado House Democrats are poised to pass sweeping gun-control legislation Monday after lobbying by Vice President Joe Biden and despite warnings that the bills could cost the state hundreds of jobs.
The House is scheduled to begin debate at 10 a.m. Monday on four Democrat-sponsored bills to tighten the state’s firearms laws. Each of the bills won preliminary approval on voice votes Friday after an emotional and contentious all-day floor session.
As debate was raging, Biden called a handful of House Democrats from swing districts and urged them to approve the four bills. The vice-president was on a ski vacation in Aspen.
“I was totally surprised,” state Rep. Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs told Fox affiliate KDVR-TV. “He just said he’s watching us and asked if we had a chance to move these bills forward and said what an important signal it would send to the country if we do.”
Republicans argued that the bills would have no impact on gun violence while harming the economy by prompting gun manufacturers to leave the state. Two ammunition companies, Magpul Industries and Alfred Manufacturing, indicated Friday that they would relocate if the bill limiting magazines to 15 rounds becomes law.
“While it’s not going to have an impact on public safety, it’s going to have a significant impact on Colorado’s economy,” said House Minority Leader Mark Waller. “We’re going to put 700 Colorado working families livelihoods in jeopardy on a hunch, on a guess, nothing more than a guess, that this bill is going to have an impact on public safety.”
The House and the Senate, which both enjoy five-seat Democratic majorities, are expected to approve the four bills. In addition to limiting magazine rounds, the bills would ban concealed-carry permit holders from entering buildings on college campuses; mandate universal background checks on all firearms sales and transfers, and require gun buyers to pay for their own criminal background checks.
Democrats approved an amendment to the ammunition bill that would exempt companies that manufacture magazine clips from the 15-round limit, noting that those firms produce ammunition for law enforcement and the military as well as private citizens.
Republicans blasted the exemption, saying it sends a message to manufacturers that “we want your money but we don’t want your product in this state,” said state Rep. Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock).
“If you think these magazines are a bad thing, the idea that you would vote for an amendment that allows them to be manufactured in our state because we’re going to make some money, is nothing less than hypocritical,” said state Rep. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs). “Is this about public safety or is this about appearances?”
State Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) insisted that the amendment was a reasonable accommodation for businesses.
“I want our government to have access to high capacity clips. I want them to have the type of weaponry that’s needed to defend our country,” said Fields. “So it’s not being hypocritical. It’s about the safety of our nation.”
Whether Gov. John Hickenlooper will sign the bill is unclear, but he said Thursday during a press conference that he supports several bills under consideration, including those mandating universal background checks, restricting ammunition magazines and requiring gun buyers to cover the cost of their own background checks.
“I’m not sure it [the package of gun bills] is anti-guns,” said Hickenlooper. “It’s trying to make sure that our community is safer.”
The fracas over gun-control bills is far from over. Another four House bills are still waiting to be heard in committee.