CENTENNIAL—The bitter irony for gun-control advocates is that it was a man with a gun, not the state’s tough new firearms laws, that prevented a mass shooting last week at Arapahoe High School.
Even Gov. John Hickenlooper, who signed the gun-control bills into law in March at considerable political cost, has admitted as much this week in interviews.
The governor told “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the newly enacted gun laws “in this specific case aren’t going to make a difference at all,” then on Tuesday praised the quick action of Arapahoe County Deputy Sheriff James Englert, the officer assigned to the school.
“In this particular case, the training and the preparation that we’ve done—that there was a sheriff at the school, a deputy sheriff, and he was there in a couple of minutes,” Hickenlooper said in an interview with Ryan Warner on Colorado Public Radio.
On that score, the Democratic governor was in perfect agreement with gun-rights advocates like state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray), who led the fight against the gun bills earlier this year on the Senate floor.
“He’s right. The gun-control laws didn’t make a difference,” said Brophy, who’s seeking the 2014 GOP nomination for governor. “What made a difference was a person in the building who was armed and who rushed to end the threat.”
The gunman, 18-year-old Karl Pierson, shot Claire Davis, 17, at random Friday before turning the gun on himself as the deputy ran shouting toward him. Davis remains in a coma and in critical condition after surgery for a head wound.
The entire incident took 80 seconds, but Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Tuesday that the shooter was bent on much greater destruction.
He was armed with a .12-gauge shotgun, more than 125 rounds of ammunition, three Molotov cocktails and a machete. Written in indelible ink on his arm were numbers that correspond to classrooms and a Latin phrase that translates to, “The die has been cast,” according to a press release.
“I believe he came to have a massacre at the school, and I thank God that Englert was there to stop him,” parent Cathleen Cancannon told Lance Hernandez of 7News.
Democrats pushed three gun-control bills through the state legislature in reaction to two mass shootings in 2012 over the objections of Republicans, who said the measures would do nothing to prevent such tragedies.
The bills, which went into effect July 1, triggered an enormous political backlash in the form of three recall elections against Democrats. Two Democrats were unseated in the Sept. 10 recall election, while the third, state Sen. Evie Hudak, resigned before recall petitions were submitted.
In the end, however, the law requiring universal background checks didn’t stop the gunman because he purchased his shotgun legally at a retailer and had nothing on his record to raise a red flag with authorities.
The law requiring the gunman to pay for his own background check didn’t stop him, presumably because he was a middle-class student from Highlands Ranch who could afford the $10 fee.
The law limiting ammunition-magazine capacity failed to stop him because he purchased buckshot, steel-shot and slugs, instead of magazines holding more than 15 rounds.
Even so, Hickenlooper said Tuesday he would not support a repeal of the laws. Republicans are expected to sponsor bills to overturn last session’s gun-control bills, but those may not get very far in the Democrat-controlled legislature.
At the same time, the governor said he would be willing to consider modifications to the laws.
“If someone comes and has some way of changing or proving or getting rid of something that’s wrong in universal background checks, I’m not ruling anything out. Let’s see what people want to bring forward,” said Hickenlooper. “[But] I don’t think we’re going to repeal anything.”