DENVER -- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who spent much of the last year trying to move past 2013's divisive fight over tougher gun laws, has brought the issue back to the fore by trying to appease the sheriffs who are suing him to overturn the laws.
"It's what he always does and it's a quality that has often served him well, trying to work both sides, to please everyone," said political analyst Eric Sondermann Thursday. "But when there's no middle ground, trying to find that middle ground just ends up alienating people on both sides."
Last Friday during a meeting with a group of sheriffs in Aspen, Hickenlooper said that he didn't think the ban on high-capacity magazines would even pass and that, when it did, he was signed the bill into law partly because a staff member had promised the bill's sponsor that he would.
"Once you give your word, or someone who works for you gives your word for you — someone who has the responsibility and the ability to do that — generally you try not to go back on that," Hickenlooper said.
During the same meeting, Hickenlooper told the sheriffs that he'd never spoken with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, was a driving force behind Colorado's new gun laws, even though phone records had already proved that he did (his office later acknowledged that the governor misspoke in an effort to explain that Bloomberg didn't influence his decision to sign the bills into law).
While the family members of shooting victims who pushed hard to pass the magazine ban and another law expanding background checks to private gun sales and transfers were irritated by Hickenlooper's comments, they are taking the comments in stride.
"That seems to be the way politics is run out here in the west. They're all just trying to be good guys," Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was one of the 12 people killed in the July 2013 Aurora Theater shooting, told FOX31 Denver Thursday. "It's not the first time, probably not the last time we hear something like that from him.
"A lot of country bumpkins live out here. [Politicians] try to talk in terms everyone can understand. I'm not going to be offended, because we know what happened. And what happened is saving lives.
"We know that the high-capacity magazines [ban] has made a difference. The shooter walked into the movie theater with a 100-round drum and killed 12 and injured 58 more. That's not going to happen again. The shooter will have to change out."
Sullivan, who was part of a group that turned in letters to Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman Thursday urging congressional action on gun control, said that Father's Day last Sunday was difficult for him, but slightly easier knowing that some other father was likely spared the same kind of loss he experienced as a result of the new gun laws.
"There was a father who was able to enjoy the day as I wasn't able to with my son and that's because of the laws that have been enacted," Sullivan said.
Former Senate President John Morse, one of three Democrats ousted last year as part of a backlash to the gun laws, was more critical of Hickenlooper during an appearance Thursday night on MSNBC's The Last Word.
"His comments disappointed me because they were so disrespectful to the family members that worked so hard to get these common sense gun safety bills passed," Morse wrote later on his Facebook page. "They really believed that the governor stood with them in their fervent belief these bills helped make Coloradans safer from gun violence."
Morse took issue with Hickenlooper's characterization of the gun bill "dividing" the state and said that the group of sheriffs are elected officials who are simply pandering to their mostly rural constituents and that Hickenlooper was foolish to try and appease them.
"The Governor needs to be much more careful about thinking out loud in front of his enemies," Morse said.