DENVER — After vowing online to brandish weapons to strike fear into the hearts of politicians contemplating gun control, the group of gun owners who attended a rally near the Capitol Wednesday let their signs and Gadsden flags do most of the talking.
While some admitted they were carrying concealed weapons, protesters were passionate but controlled as they stood alongside Lincoln Avenue across from the Capitol where the legislature opened earlier in the morning.
“This is about freedom, this is about being an American,” said Karen Murray, of Parker.
Like the National Rifle Association and most gun enthusiasts, the response to mass shootings like those in Aurora, Milwaukee and Newtown, Conn., all carried out by gunmen with semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, shouldn’t be a move to ban those firearms.
“A lot of these things can be preempted or avoided altogether if law-abiding citizens packing heat could just do something about it before it gets out of hand,” Murray said.
“The only thing it’s going to make it harder to do is for law abiding citizens to buy firearms and defend themselves,” said Josh Westerlund of Colorado Springs. “The criminals will always have guns.”
On Wednesday as the legislature got underway, Republican Sen. Scott Renfroe introduced a measure to allow teachers and other school staffers to carry weapons on campus.
“Wherever we need to protect something of value, we put armed guards in place,” said Frederick Bloom of Denver. “We put air marshalls on planes don’t we?”
Democrats, who now control both chambers of the legislature, are proposing going a different direction and will likely introduce measures to ban guns on college campuses and to subject all guns sold privately to background checks.
“The Second Amendment is sacrosanct. But so is the First,” said new House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, in his opening day speech.
“It is our right – and the time is right – to speak openly and honestly about how we can curb the gun violence that costs our communities far too many sons and daughters.”
Two Colorado members of Congress are also sponsoring federal bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Bloom, who stood along Lincoln holding a giant Colorado state flag emblazoned with the “Don’t Tread on Me” serpent and insignia, believes that taking away those high-powered weapons is a violation of the Second Amendment.
“Yes they can be very destructive, no question about that. But we have them because government is making decisions that we oppose,” he said. “Trying to disarm us is putting us in the same position as the citizens of Rwanda, Cambodia, Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany.
“The [Second Amendment] says we should have parity with our military should our military be used against us.”
Jim Mapes, who was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon into a movie theater in the days after the Aurora theater shooting — the charges were later dropped — agreed with Bloom that assault weapons should be available to citizens looking to defend themselves from mobs and riots.
“Your need for an assault weapon is only a flash mob away. You look at hurricanes, earhquakes, where civil order breaks down,” said Mapes, who experienced the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.
“A five-shot shotgun is not going to stop that mob. But if you have an AR and a 30-round magazine or two, they will think twice.”