WASHINGTON — Governor John Hickenlooper’s remark that attempts to approve an assault-weapons ban in Colorado have been difficult highlights the tricky politics of the issue for officials elected statewide, especially for Senator Mark Udall, whose left-of-center position has exasperated allies and enemies alike.
On Sunday, five days after signing three far-reaching gun control measures into law, Hickenlooper indicated that convincing state lawmakers to vote for a prohibition on semi-automatic guns and rifles has been nettlesome. “It’s a tough sell,” the Democrat said on CNN.
At the national level, Colorado Sen. Mark Udall has gone further than Hickenlooper, backing a reinstatement of a federal ban on so-called assault weapons.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that military-style weapons don’t really have any place in our society,” Udall said in a press release only days after the Newtown massacre. “We ought to reinstitute the assault weapons ban that served us well for ten years from 1994 to 2004.”
That ban included a sunset provision in which the legislation expired after ten years. Proposals to reinstate the controversial ban authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) and Colorado Democrat Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) do not, and Udall has stopped short of endorsing either measure.
A Udall spokesman did not respond to two requests for comment about Feinstein’s legislation.
A Gallup poll last December on the subject showed less than majority support for an assault weapons ban. It found that 44 percent supported and 51 percent opposed “a law which would make it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess semi-automatic guns known as assault weapons.”
David Kopel, research director at the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, said, “If you look at Gallup, it’s under 50 percent, and Colorado is not going to be more supportive of gun control.”
Of the nine members in the Colorado congressional delegation, Udall is left-of-center on an assault weapons ban.
To his left are Perlmutter and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), who both endorse an outright semi-automatic weapons prohibition.
To his right are Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder), Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), who oppose an extension of the ban.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has not declared outright support for or opposition to pending proposals, but has suggested the issue should be decided at the state level.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Co.) has endorsed the concept of an assault weapons ban, but has not endorsed any specific legislative proposals.
Udall, whose voting record received a grade of “C” from the National Rifle Association, has straddled the politics of guns before.
In May 2009 he supported an amendment to allow guns in national parks; in July 2009, he supported allowing holders of concealed weapons permits to possess guns in states that have reciprocal laws.
Yet Udall did not call for gun-control legislation after the Aurora shooting massacre last July.
Tom Mauser, a spokesman for Colorado Ceasefire, a Denver-based gun-safety organization, told TCO that Udall did not sign his pledge to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and the mentally deranged.
Udall is seeking to win re-election to a second term next year.