DENVER – A bill limiting ammunition magazine capacity to 15 rounds passed from the House to Gov. John Hickenlooper – but a second bill requiring universal background checks for all gun transfers was detoured Wednesday to be tweaked.
“Democrats are out of touch,” said House Minority Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs). “More than 200,000 Coloradans are out of work but Democrats are more concerned with passing legislation that will send hundreds of jobs out of our state without any increase in public safety to show for it.”
House members debated four hours over Senate amendments to both gun control-bills which were sponsored by state Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora).
Republicans, who oppose the bills, repeatedly asked for both measures go to a conference committee to address flaws and unintended consequences.
Democrats, bent on sending the bills to Hickenlooper who has said he will sign both of them, initially put up stubborn resistance. But Fields had a change of heart when Republicans questioned the scope of background checks for corporations, which could include a gun club of 300 members or a ranch owned by 21 family members.
In response to Republicans’ request for clarifications, Fields said that background checks would be required for every member of a corporation. But, there was confusion over whether background checks would have to be repeated – and paid for again – with each new gun transaction.
Assistant Majority Leader Dan Pabon (D-Denver) said corporate entities are viewed “as a person” in a lot of areas of the law.
State Rep. Daniel Kagan said that once the background checks a performed on corporation members and employees, further checks would not be required because the corporation would then be the owner guns.
Republicans seized on the confusion, citing it as a reason for further review by a conference committee.
“I want to thank my colleagues for pointing out a very legitimate issue,” said Fields. “I am very confident that we address this issue while still ensuring that corporations are not used to make straw purchases for those individuals who cannot pass background checks.”
Fields supported sending the bill to the conference committee. State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) agreed and asked opponents of the bill to support the motion. The House unanimously voted yes.
The other measure, a bill to prohibit so-called “high capacity” magazines of more than 15 rounds, passed the House on a 34-30 vote, and will now be sent to Governor John Hickenlooper’s desk.
Democrat state Reps. Ed Vigil of Fort Garland, Steve Lebsock of Thornton and Leroy Garcia of Pueblo joined Republicans in voting against the measure.
State Rep. Janak Joshi (R-Colorado Springs) had requested the magazine ban be sent to conference committee to clarify that active military service members are exempt because they buy 30-round magazines for deployment to the Middle East. In addition, some use them for off-duty shooting practice
“This bill is crystal clear,” insisted state Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), who urged the House to pass the gun-control measure so it could be signed into law.
“We have more protections in Colorado’s law for pheasants than we do for human beings,” declared Duran.
Your continued comparison between peasants and people is absolutely offensive,” retorted former House Speaker Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch), who also encouraged sending the bill to the conference committee.
“When you have an opportunity to make a bill better, you take that opportunity whether you support or oppose the bill,” said McNulty.
After the Democrats rejected that idea, Speaker Pro Tem Claire Levy (D-Boulder) was a bit too anxious to vote on the Senate amendments – without comment. Republicans laughed over the slip up but were more serious when speaking against the bill.
“There is no rational argument for a 15-round magazine [limit],” declared McNulty. “And as this bill has moved through the process… increasingly the flaws in the bill have shown at every turn.”
“The governor holds press conferences announcing 25 jobs created, and yet with these votes and the stroke of his pen, 700 families will be out of work,” said McNulty, referring to the businesses who plan to leave Colorado with passage of the legislation.
“Attacking the tools of violence doesn’t make us safer. Understanding and addressing the underlying cause of violence does,” said McNulty. “And that has not been part of this debate even at the onset.”