A month into the 2013 session of the Colorado General Assembly, majority Democrats announced their package of gun-control bills at a news conference at the state Capitol last week.
While it was widely known that the bills were coming, much behind-the-scenes work took place before the package was introduced. In the meantime, Republican legislators had introduced a series of bills designed to enhance gun rights. But with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate and against the backdrop of the Aurora theater and Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, those bills had no chance for success and have been quickly dispatched in their first committee hearings.
The Democratic package is no sure thing either. A variety of Democratic legislators come from districts and backgrounds where gun ownership is prevalent and restrictions of any kind are opposed by a large percentage of the people who live there. There was some thought that Democrats would introduce only proposals with the most likelihood of success, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.
The package includes bills with varying chances for success. The most anticipated proposals would require all gun sales, including private sales that are currently exempt, to be subject to background checks and to require more information about people with demonstrated mental health problems in hopes that they will have more limited access to guns. Another proposal would require people purchasing guns to pay for the cost of background checks. The current system is funded by general tax dollars.
While none of those proposals is assured of passage, they are the least controversial suggestions in the Democrats’ package. One of the bills overturns a court decision that allows conceal-and-carry permit holders to have guns on college campuses. Another bill would ban any ammunition magazine that is capable of holding more than 10 rounds. By far, the most controversial bill is one that would make anyone who manufactures, sells, owns or possesses an assault weapon liable for crimes committed with weapons in which they were part of the chain of control.
In a session that will have more than its share of high-profile issues — including civil unions, in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants who matriculated at Colorado high schools, implementation of Amendment 64’s legalization of marijuana and mandatory collective bargaining rights for firefighters across the state — gun control will now likely rise to become the year’s highest-profile and most contentious issue.
Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.