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Udall, Bennet say they still want assault weapons ban

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DENVER — Colorado’s two Democratic senators are pushing back at a Denver Post story Thursday that reported they are waffling on supporting legislation to ban assault weapons due to political concerns.

In December, roughly a week after the Newtown shooting that killed 20 first-graders, Sen. Mark Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet told FOX31 Denver that they wanted to see a new ban on assault weapons.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that military style weapons really don’t have any place in our society,” Udall said. “We ought to reinstate the assault weapons ban that served us well for 10 years from 1994 to 2004.”

Bennet followed suit the same day with a statement of his own calling for a comprehensive approach.

“The shooters in Aurora and Newtown should not have had access to the guns or magazines they used,” Bennet’s statement read. “I believe a combination of improved access to mental health services, restrictions on certain weapons intended for the battlefield, and elimination of the gun show loophole are sensible steps that can reduce our children’s risk.”

On Thursday, a few hours after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, rolled out her revamped legislation to ban assault weapons, the Denver Post’s Allison Sherry tried to find out if Udall and Bennet were on board.

Both senators addressed the need to find a balance that also works for sportsmen and stopped well short of saying they will support the specific legislation, which would permanently outlaw more weapons than the 1994 ban, which, unlike the new proposal, had a sunset provision that took affect 10 years later.

Sherry termed the apparent change in position as “confounding”.

But both staffers for both Udall and Bennet insisted Friday that they are simply looking over the specific legislation introduced Thursday, and that, while they are indeed “uncommitted” on Feinstein’s bill, their position in favor of a general ban on assault weapons has not changed.

“First and foremost, Sen. Bennet’s concern is that we find solutions that will be effective,” said the senator’s spokesman, Adam Bozzi, on Friday. “He has already called for an assault weapons ban. He’s going to take a serious look at this specific bill, which was introduced yesterday — as he will with other bills when they are proposed — before he decides which he’ll support.

“His concern is that we find solutions that will be effective and he’ll look into data that demonstrates how this will help limit or stop these events.”

Udall’s office also responded to FOX31′s request for a clarification.

“Sen. Udall has clearly said that he believes an assault weapons ban should be considered as part of a comprehensive solution to reduce gun violence,” said Mike Saccone, the senator’s spokesman. “But details matter. He is thoughtfully reviewing the legislation introduced yesterday, which is different from the 1994 ban, to determine if it conforms to Colorado and the West’s heritage of safe, responsible gun ownership.”

Bennet and Udall have not been among the more outspoken lawmakers pushing for gun control following the Newtown shooting.

Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, is co-sponsoring the House version of Feinstein’s assault weapons ban. Thursday, at the elaborate press conference to introduce the legislation, Perlmutter read a letter from the family members of seven victims of the Aurora theater shooting who want lawmakers to ban assault weapons.

Also, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, is sponsoring a ban on high-capacity magazines in the House.

But unlike those two lawmakers from safe Democratic districts, Udall and Bennet represent all of Colorado, a western state with a long tradition of gun ownership but also a state that is shifting left politically.

A survey released Monday from Project New America and pollster Chris Keating found that 61 percent of Coloradans support a ban on assault weapons, and that other gun control proposals have even higher support in the state.