DENVER—Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper reiterated his support Sunday for universal background checks on firearms purchases but stopped short of endorsing any of the other gun-control proposals now rolling through the Democratic legislature.
Hickenlooper, appearing on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation,” said state officials intercepted more than 1,000 convicted felons attempting to buy firearms last year by conducting 320,000 background checks on sales through dealers and gun shows.
“We ended up arresting over 100, issuing arrest warrants for over 100 individuals, because they signed up for the background check,” said Hickenlooper. “We want to expand that. And it is an inconvenience for people, but we only cover about 60 percent of the transfers now. We want to get that 40 percent.”
He also emphasized his support for improving mental-health programs in order to curb gun violence, saying “certainly our highest priority has been mental health issues.”
The Democratic governor appeared on a panel with three other governors, all of whom were in Washington, D.C., for the National Governors Association’s winter meeting.
Hickenlooper has been a moving target on the firearms issue, sometimes appearing sympathetic to the arguments of gun-control supporters, sometimes leaning to the gun-rights side. He has yet to say whether he would sign any of the measures in the Democratic legislative leadership’s proposed eight-bill package, although it seems increasingly likely that he will okay the universal-background check bill, which has already passed the House.
One thing Hickenlooper said he’d learned during the gun debate: Felons aren’t very bright.
“I mean, people say, well, you know, criminals aren’t stupid, they’re not going to go through a background check,” he said. “Hey, what a surprise. They are stupid, right?”
He said the governors received a briefing on the looming automatic federal budget cuts, better known as the sequester, from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. As a result, he said, he believes the sequester could imperil food safety and education, among other things.
“I think the effects will be significant, and people will feel them,” said Hickenlooper.
On immigration, the governor said he supported employment identification programs to make sure “everybody hires people that are supposed to be hire-able.”
President Obama has called for immigration reform to include legalizing undocumented aliens while Republicans have said they want to see an independent report confirming that the border has been secured first.
“I don’t have as much of a problem doing the border security first,” said Hickenlooper. “They do have to be done together.”