Gardner will oppose gun control; Udall, Bennet keeping quiet

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DENVER — Yuma Congressman Cory Gardner, a potential Republican challenger to Sen. Mark Udall in 2014, told FOX31 Denver Wednesday that he will oppose Democrats’ renewed efforts to pass any gun control measures next year.

In the days since the deadly shooting at a Connecticut school that claimed 26 lives, President Obama and many Democrats have promised to move forward in January, when the new Congress begins, with legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and to close the loophole that currently allows people buying guns at gun shows to avoid FBI background checks.

Gardner, a highly-regarded conservative within the House GOP caucus who harbors a desire to one day represent all of this politically diverse swing state, isn’t adjusting his position on gun control amidst the latest wave of clamoring for tighter regulations.

“In light of this tragedy, I understand that many will want to have a conversation about gun control,” Gardner said in a statement requested by FOX31 Denver. “While I am always open to the discussion and evaluation of current laws and policies at the state and federal level, I believe it is important that we are making the best decisions possible to promote the safety of our citizens, while also protecting our rights.

“In my mind, this event is yet another reminder that we need to ensure our mental health services have the appropriate resources at their disposal to identify individuals capable of such an act. I do not believe gun control is the answer.

“Moreover, it is critical that our mental health facilities are working in cooperation with our law enforcement agencies to prevent future atrocities from happening.”

Udall, who’s taken a moderate tack during his first term in the Senate, is taking a very measured approach to the issue, releasing a broad statement in the days after the Newtown, Conn. shooting but declining an interview request from FOX31 Denver (and possibly other news outlets) and, as yet, not saying whether he supports the specific gun control legislation he’ll likely have to vote on early next year.

Similarly, Udall’s colleague, Sen. Michael Bennet, who’s quickly built a reputation in Washington as a problem-solving moderate, has avoided expounding on his own positions on those proposals; so far this week, his office also has been unable to set up an interview with FOX31 Denver.

“The time has come for the country to have a real discussion about finding ways to stop these types of senseless shootings,” said Bennet in a statement Monday. “We should have a comprehensive and civil conversation about finding the right and most effective solutions. That includes exploring a number of areas — from our gun laws to mental health services and violence in our culture.

“What we know is that the status quo isn’t working and that if we want to arrive at a common sense approach we can’t afford to have the same ideological fervor and rhetoric we’ve seen in the past. This discussion should be worthy of the victims of Columbine, Aurora, Newton and the many other tragedies that have struck this nation.”

A statement from Udall hit all the same notes.

“As a nation, we must have an honest and open dialogue about how to prevent these tragedies in the future,” Udall said in the statement. “We must not fear the politics of this frank dialogue.  All reasonable ideas should be on the table and up for debate — from examining our culture’s glorification of violence to preventing mentally ill people from possessing guns to ensuring responsible gun ownership consistent with the Second Amendment. I will do my part to ensure that all voices are heard as we have this important debate on how to appropriately respond to this mass killing and recent gun violence.”

On Wednesday, Denver Post editorial page editor Curtis Hubbard hit both senators for failing to offer more than those generalities.

“In the aftermath of too many violent mass shootings, unwillingness from Bennet and Udall to take even general stands on guns smacks of being more concerned about their political fortunes than in the fortunes of the people who have suffered as a result of laws that are too lax,” Hubbard writes.

Golden Congressman Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat with a very firm grip on what’s supposed to be a swing district, came out in favor of renewing the ban on assault weapons immediately after the July shooting at the Century 16 cinemas in Aurora; this week, he signed on as a sponsor of that legislation to be reintroduced in January.

FOX31 asked him about the response from Udall and Bennet.

“I appreciate that our senators are thoughtful about this; and these are just very difficult subjects for all of us,” Perlmutter said Wednesday from Washington. “I felt with that Aurora shooting in my district that I had to tackle this. I wanted to focus on jobs and the economy and health care and a variety of other subjects. But this is one that is so near and so prevalent on people’s minds because we’ve had so many and they just keep getting worse, and we’ve just got to deal with it.”