DENVER–House Democrats approved all four gun-control bills Monday, insisting that they would protect public safety over the objections of Republicans who said the measures would do nothing except cost the state jobs.
None of the four bills received any Republican votes, although a few Democrats did vote against the measures. The most dramatic moment of the four-hour session came when state Rep. Ed Vigil (D-San Luis) told the chamber he would oppose all four bills as Republicans stood in support.
“How I got to these votes: First of all, I vote my conscience,” said Vigil. “My conscience is clear that I am doing the right thing for Colorado and for the people of Colorado.”
Despite Vigil’s decision to side with Republicans, the outcome of the session was never in doubt. With a 37-28 majority, Democrats could afford to lose a few votes from lawmakers in swing districts and still pass each of the bills.
The package now moves to the Senate, but that doesn’t mean the House is finished with gun control. House Democrats have proposed another four bills, while the Senate is also expected to introduce firearms restrictions of its own.
The results of Monday’s House votes on firearms legislation, in the order they were approved:
HB 1224: Limits ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, but exempts manufacturers from the limit. Passed 34-31;
HB 1229: Mandates background checks for all sales and transfers of firearms, including transfers between family members and friends. Passed 36-29;
HB 1228: Requires gun buyers to pay for their own state-mandated background checks. Passed 33-32;
HB 1226: Bars concealed-carry permit holders from bringing firearms into campus buildings at colleges and universities. Passed 34-31.
House Speaker Mark Ferrandino limited testimony to 10 minutes per legislator per bill, resulting in a much quicker debate than Monday’s marathon session. He said he believed the four bills would pass constitutional muster.
“A bill like this will save lives, and while we have to make sure we are careful in protecting the Second Amendment, we also have to make sure that we protect life,” said Ferrandino.
Republicans predicted the measures would result in the loss of jobs as manufacturers leave the state. Two Colorado companies, Magpul Industries and Alfred Manufacturing, have already indicated they will relocate if the magazine-limit bill passes, taking hundreds of jobs with them.
Several Republicans described the bill to require gun purchasers to pay for their own background check as a “poll tax,” saying that it compels citizens to pay for a constitutional right, much as poll taxes charged voters a fee in order to exercise their right to vote.
“A fee that is rendered on a right such as this can’t be anything other than a poll tax,” said state Rep. Lori Saine (R-Dacono). “This will suppress gun ownership. It will discourage people from owning weapons.”
State Rep. Jovan Melton (D-Aurora) disagreed, noting that the poll tax was used in the South in order to discourage African Americans from voting.
“I can’t choose to be black, but people can choose whether or not to buy a gun,” said Melton.
Republicans also predicted that the bill requiring universal background checks would inevitably lead to gun registration. Officials from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said they delete all information on gun buyers within 24 hours of performing the check, but lawmakers pointed out that without registration, there would be no way to prove whether a gun owner had been approved.
“If you’re driving down the street with a firearm in your car, which by the way in Colorado is legal, now it may not be, unless you can prove how you came into possession of that firearm,” said state Rep. Chris Holbert (R-Parker). “And you can’t, without registration.”
Colorado’s gun-control package drew national attention after Vice President Joe Biden called a handful of Democratic legislators Friday from Aspen, where he was on a ski vacation. Biden, who is pushing gun-control measures on behalf of the Obama administration, urged the lawmakers to approve the bills.
State Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) said that her decision to introduce gun-control legislation came long before any lobbying by the White House.
“After the horrible events that happened Aurora, I was compelled to do something,” said Fields. “It was way before the White House initiative to address gun violence. So this is not something that was based on some White House Washington influence.”
Fields also said the four bills approved Monday were just the beginning of the effort to curb gun violence, predicting that “you’ll see more.”
“Will this bill stop all crime in our state? No. That’s why you’re going to see a series of several bills, because we see this as an incremental approach to address gun violence,” said Fields.
Her assurances didn’t do anything to relieve the anxieties of Republicans.
“I take to heart Rep. Fields’ comment that this is just the first of many bills, and it saddens my heart, because what we’re seeing here is the beginning of the end of some of the freedoms we’ve always enjoyed here in the West,” said state Rep. Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock).