DENVER–Democratic legislators rolled out a sweeping package of gun-control measures Tuesday, setting the stage for a blistering confrontation with gun-rights advocates who said the proposals would make Colorado the most anti-gun state in the nation.
The proposed package of eight bills would ban ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds; create strict liability for manufacturers, distributors and owners of so-called assault weapons; require background checks for all buyers, and eliminate state subsidies for background checks.
The package also bans concealed-carry in most areas on college campuses and requires in-person training for concealed-carry permits.
Mental-health professionals would be able to stop a potentially dangerous patient from purchasing guns by notifying the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
“Coloradans have asked us to lead on this issue–not to stand idly by while children are being gunned down in schools and movie theaters,” said Senate President John Morse. “In response, we have created unique Colorado solutions to our unique Colorado problems.”
Morse and other Democratic sponsors unveiled the measures at a capitol press conference before a backdrop of victims’ relatives from mass shootings at Columbine High School, the Aurora theater and Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“As a civilized society, we cannot stand back and wait for another Columbine, another Aurora,” said House Speaker Mark Ferrandino. “The legislation we introduce will not bring all gun violence in Colorado to a screeching halt, but it will reduce gun violence.”
Gun-rights advocates immediately vowed to fight the measures by bringing intense pressure on the legislature, particularly wobbly Democratic lawmakers from rural and suburban districts. Democrats hold the majority in both houses.
“We’re going to go into their districts and tell gun owners, ‘This is what they’re doing to your constitutional rights,’” said Dudley Brown, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners after the press conference.
If Democrats can prevent their caucuses from splintering, the bills would end up on the desk of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who isn’t known as a promoter of gun control despite indicating in December that he would be willing to consider restrictions.
Hickenlooper is slated to meet privately Thursday with National Rifle Association president David Keene.
“The governor supports universal background checks and is open to a discussion about magazine limits and other ideas designed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” said Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown in a statement to KDVR-TV.
Brown said the governor would “study” the liability bill, the most ambitious of the package’s proposals, calling it “creative.”
State Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) had another word for it: “extreme.” By making everyone in the chain from manufacturers to buyers liable for any crimes committed with a firearm, he said, the Colorado legislature is effectively proposing an assault-weapons ban.
He said the liability bill, called the Assault Weapons Responsibility Act and scheduled to be introduced by Morse and Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), is the equivalent of making Coors Brewing responsible for drunk-driving accidents.
“The liability bill is more extreme than the one Dianne Feinstein introduced banning assault weapons,” said Brophy, referring to the California senator. “It would put retail outlets in a position where they couldn’t sell weapons. It’s even more aggressive than what they have in New York.”
Republicans have proposed several bills to combat mass shootings, but so far have failed to win Democratic support. A bill that would have given school districts the authority to permit allow qualified staffers to carry weapons was defeated on a party-line vote in committee.
“We have Democrats killing bills that are proven to make people safer and then introducing this package of bills that won’t make anyone safer,” said Brophy. “It makes me think they care more about their extreme gun-control agenda than public safety.”
None of the eight Democratic bills had been introduced Tuesday, but they are expected to emerge in the next couple of weeks.