DENVER — The first hearing on Democratic legislation aimed at curbing gun violence in Colorado drew hundreds of people to the Capitol on Tuesday for marathon hearings that lasted late into the evening.
Ultimately, the Democrat-controlled panel hearing the two measures that dominated the day made sure that both of them moved on.
After four hours of testimony on the first of two proposals from Rep. Rhonda Fields, the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve her bill that would mandate background checks on all gun purchased, including private sales.
While some law enforcement officials told lawmakers that universal background checks will make their jobs easier, the gun industry tried to cast doubt on their effectiveness.
“Criminals don’t abide by the law,” the National Rifle Association’s Colorado lobbyist, Daniel Carey, told the committee. “That’s what makes them criminals.”
The committee also heard from victims of gun violence, including Tom Mauser, the father of Daniel Mauser, who was killed at Columbine High School in 1999, about how the state’s response to close the loophole on guns bought at gun shows has helped to reduce gun violence.
The 7-4 party-line vote on House Bill 1229, which moves the bill to the House Appropriations Committee, didn’t even mark the mid-way point of the day-long hearing, which then turned to Field’s second bill, a ban on high-capacity magazines like those used by the gunmen in recent mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown.
State lawmakers also approve amended ban on high-capacity magazines
“These high-capacity magazines allow a gun to fire large amounts of bullets to kill people as fast as possible,” Fields told the committee.
The Arapahoe County Coroner, who received the bodies of last summer’s theater shooting, helped Fields hammer that point home.
“Hardly a week goes by when I don’t see what a bullet can do to a human body,” said Coroner Michael Doberson. “The most devastating wounds I’ve seen have been the result of high velocity rounds, like those fired by semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15.
“These are basically military-style weapons that have been introduced into our civilian spaces, our streets, our shopping malls, our schools. These rounds have devastating effects on the human body, even when only one strikes. Can you imagine what happens when multiple bullets are fired from one of these high-capacity magazines?
“Well, I can.”
Lawmakers spent more time grappling with the details of the ban, after testimony from Magpul, a Colorado company that produces 30-round magazines for AR-15 type rifles, that the proposed ban would force them to relocate to another state and cost the state economy 200 jobs and an estimated $47 million in annual revenue.
They also approved an amendment from Rep. Mike McLaughlan, D-Durango, to water down the ban somewhat, increasing the proposed limit to magazines of 15 rounds or more, not 10 as Fields had been proposing.
Finally, at 10:21 p.m. Tuesday, the amended House Bill 1224 passed House Judiciary on the same, 7-4 party-line vote as the first bill.
It now heads to the House floor.
Two other Democrat-sponsored House measures will get their first hearings on Wednesday.
The House Education Committee is set to hear House Bill 1226, Rep. Claire Levy’s measure to ban concealed weapons on most college campuses.
And the House Finance Committee will hear House Bill 1228, sponsored by Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, to make gun buyers pay for background checks on their purchases.