DENVER—Colorado Democrats paid a heavy price for last year’s gun-control push, but given a chance Monday to repeal the most contentious measure, they dug themselves in deeper.
The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee voted 7-4 along party lines to defeat a Republican-sponsored bill to repeal last year’s measure restricting magazine capacity to 15 rounds.
The outcome came as little surprise, given that the bill was assigned to a panel known as the “kill committee,” and that Senate Democrats defeated another effort last week to repeal a 2013 measure mandating background checks on private gun sales and transfers.
That didn’t stop state Rep. Chris Holbert (R-Parker) from giving it everything he had, even telling the Democrats that they’d be more successful in the November election if they would vote to repeal the magazine limit.
“I ask you, the seven [Democrats] who are not sponsors on the bill, do you recognize the political opportunity that is afforded by repealing this law, by passing this bill, and taking this issue off the table for the November elections?” said Holbert.
The magazine limit was the primary catalyst for the grassroots backlash that saw two Democratic state senators recalled and a third senator resign. The recalls trimmed the Democrats’ majority to 18 to 17, putting them within one seat of losing the Senate.
Most of the county sheriffs signed onto a federal lawsuit challenging the bill, while Magpul Industries announced that it would relocate to Texas and Wyoming, taking with it the $85 million that it contributes annually to Colorado’s economy.
“I understand the folks that voted for [the magazine limit] may not like Magpul or what it stands for or its products; however, I do ask that you consider the folks that are losing their jobs as a result of last year’s bill,” said state Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone).
A companion Senate repeal measure is slated to be heard on Wednesday, but it’s also been assigned to a committee known for sinking bills.
Democrats pushed through three gun-control measures last year in response to two mass shootings in 2012: the Aurora theater shooting and the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
At Monday’s five-hour hearing, several victims’ relatives testified against the repeal, saying the magazine limit was needed to increase public safety.
“Magazine sizes greater than the 15-round limit that was passed as a law here in Colorado still I feel do not have any place in the society we live in, and nothing has changed in my mind this past year to change that,” said Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed by the Aurora gunman in July 2012.
Gun-rights advocates argued that the magazine limit would do nothing to improve safety, while Weld County Sheriff John Cooke called the measure “unenforceable,” given that it’s impossible to tell a grandfathered magazine from one purchased after the law took effect in July.
State Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton) said he rejected the idea of making a decision “on what we think is politically expedient or politically smart.”
“I think we should take a look at the information, I think we should consult with our constituents, and at the end of the day I think we should do what the right thing is,” said Salazar. “That’s why I’m voting against this bill.”
Still, the hearing showed that anger over the gun-control bills is still simmering, and appears likely to become a central election issue. After the hearing, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners had a brief post on the committee vote on its Facebook page.
“The good news? November is just around the corner,” the post said.