In Part Two of this series, I talked about applying for a concealed carry permit and what I learned in the beginning of my study of gun control. To further my education, I attended and watched the hearings and floor debates in the Colorado General Assembly in February and March 2013 as Democrats introduced and passed several gun control bills against overwhelming opposition by Republicans and citizens opposed to these bills. It was a highly illuminating experience, and I learned a lot more about the issues involved.
Front-row Seat At Gun Control Debates
On February 12, 2012 I went to the Colorado State Capital to attend hearings on HB1224 – Prohibiting Large-capacity Ammunition Magazines and HB1229 – Background Checks For Gun Transfers. Both of these bills were to be debated in the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Donald Kagan, D – Greenwood Village.
When I arrived at the Capital I found the hearing room to be overflowing. The line to sign up to speak was at least forty people long. Even though I had prepared remarks, when I saw the line I decided not to sign up, because I wasn’t sure I would get to speak. I found a great front row seat near the seats reserved for those who were going to speak in favor of the bills, including Tom Mauser, the father of one of the Columbine victims.
The background check bill was the first to be discussed. The committee chair allowed the invited witnesses for the proponents to speak first. They included several expert witnesses and a handful of other witnesses including victims of gun violence. After a few hours, the opponents were allowed to speak. Most notably, at least a dozen uniformed county sheriffs were there to testify against this and the other bills. Because they were not allowed to testify individually, they stood behind their spokesman while he testified. Their arguments were quite well-reasoned and convincing. These same elected sheriffs later filed suit against the governor after the five bills were passed.
After a few more hours, the chairman said that the “time was up” for public testimony. Despite the fact that many people who had signed up to speak were not allowed to, the committee chair running the show disallowed any further public input. He did, however, ask all who were opposed to the bill to stand. Almost every single person in the room – probably two hundred or more, including me – stood. I’ll never forget the look on sponsor Representative Fields’ face when she turned around to see how many “gun crazies” were there to oppose her bill.
The next bill to be discussed was the magazine ban. Despite the fact that so-called “high-capacity” magazines are not used in the majority of gun crimes, thanks to a couple of high-profile incidents where mentally ill persons used firearms with standard capacity magazines, gun control proponents established the mantra that these magazines “…have only one purpose, and that is to kill many people quickly…” As I sat there listening to Rep. Fields introduce the bill, I was struck by how much of her language was exactly the same, word for word, as I had heard other prominent Democrats saying in other venues.
After several excruciating hours of testimony, the Judiciary Committee voted to refer the two bills to the entire House. The magazine ban was modified by one significant amendment, raising the arbitrary number that makes a magazine “high-capacity” from 10 rounds to 15. At this time, I did not own any firearms with a magazine capacity over 8, so this proposed law would have had no effect on me.
Both of these bills were passed after many more hours of debate and amendments. They were signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper and went into effect July 1, 2013. So far, they have not kept any guns out of criminal hands or saved any lives. Because they are unenforceable, they are ineffective. Because they are ineffective, they are meaningless and only serve to infringe the rights of legal gun buyers and owners.
On February 13 the Colorado House Finance committee held hearings on HB1228 – Payment For Background Checks For Gun Transfers. I watched the testimony on live TV as it took place through the day. Once again, I had the feeling that the Democrats in charge were just going through the motions. As with the others, this bill passed the committee on a party-line vote. The arguments against this bill, now law, amount to this: it is an unconstitutional fee to exercise a right protected by the Second Amendment. It is in no way different from a “poll tax” or other cost to exercise a right. This law has not prevented any criminal from obtaining a firearm. It did not prevent the Arapahoe High School shooter from obtaining his firearm legally. It too is a failure that has not done anything to improve public safety.
Monday, March 4, 2013 – Citizen Suppression Day in Capitol Building
On Monday, March 4, 2013 in brazen act of citizen suppression, the Senate held hearings on seven different bills in two different committees in small hearing rooms with time so limited that the hundreds of people opposing these bills were not granted time to make their concerns known to lawmakers. Indeed, as reporter Eli Stokels wrote,
“Gun owners who oppose the various proposals, which include a ban on high-capacity magazines, universal background checks, and a measure to make assault weapons manufacturers and sellers criminally liable for crimes, flooded the Capitol, the sidewalks outside and even the air above, with a circling airplane trailing a sign pleading Gov. John Hickenlooper not to “take our guns.”
And since the hearings got underway, a persistent wail of honking horns and car alarms has been heard inside the hearing rooms, signaling the determination of some opponents, many frustrated at the limited time allowed for official testimony, to make their opposition heard.”
By contrast, the supporters of the gun laws were few and far between. I saw many more people wearing “I vote pro-gun” stickers than the little green ribbons. I kept wondering, if these laws were supported by “the majority”, where were they? Why didn’t they show up to support these bills?
Some of these including the magazine ban, the universal background check bill, the fee for background checks and concealed carry at colleges had already passed the House and were being heard in the Senate. Others were being introduced in the Senate that day.
By scheduling hearings for seven different bills before two committees simultaneously in small hearing rooms, Senate Democrats led by former President John Morse, D – Colorado Springs were blatantly sending a message to Colorado gun rights supporters – “These hearings are just for show. We’re going to get them over with and pass these bills and there’s nothing you can do about it because we are the majority”.
The Judiciary Committee, chaired by former Senator Angela Giron, D – Pueblo, then heard another bill, SB197 – No Firearm For Domestic Violence Offenders. This bill sounded like it was a good idea on the surface, but as testimony that day revealed, there were several flaws to the bill. During the debate in the full house a few days later, the Republican minority leader made a motion to table the bill to allow a bipartisan committee to work through the flaws and produce a better bill. Not surprisingly, the Democrats voted this motion down and the bill was passed and signed into law. This bill is unconstitutional in that it deprives persons accused – not convicted of domestic violence of their property without due process of law as protected by the Fourth Amendment.
The Judiciary Committee also heard and passed on the magazine ban that day after allowing out
of state personalities like Captain Mark Kelly and other proponents to testify while limiting the time for Colorado citizens to voice their concerns. Just days after testifying, Captain Kelly was spotted in a Tucson gun store buying an AR-15, which is his wife, former congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s gun of choice as well.
It was during the hearings in the Judiciary Committee that I first saw Alan Franklin, the Political Director of ProgressNow Colorado. Until this time, I had never heard of that organization and didn’t even really know what modern-day “progressives” were all about. Mr. Franklin sat down at the witness table with a binder in hand and proceeded to lecture the lawmakers about why they should pass the legislation being discussed. His manner was very much that of an executive imparting orders to his staff, and he did not seem to take well to being dismissed when his time was up.
It was in studying his organization that I learned more about the progressive movement and some
of the big names supporting it. This study led me to the book titled The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care). It is from this book that I learned how Colorado, once so Republican Red, became Democrat Blue, a “swing state” and, of late, a progressive lab experiment. Similar to how the Washington, DC city council hoped their handgun ban would go national in the 1970s, the progressive/liberal Democrats hoped to implant gun control laws in Colorado prior to taking them national. To underscore this fact, while the debates were going on, lawmakers were receiving calls from both President Obama and Vice President Biden urging them to get these bills passed.
Meanwhile, in another hearing room, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee heard HB 1226 – No Concealed Carry at Colleges. Introduced by Rep. Claire Levy, D – Boulder
and passed by the House, the Senate sponsor was Senator Rollie Heath, D – Boulder. This hearing proved to be the most controversial and the bill ended up being killed by Senator Heath a couple days later. It was during this hearing that Amanda Collins, a rape survivor, told her story of being unable to protect herself despite being a CHP holder. Because concealed carry was prohibited on her college campus, she was not armed when she was attacked and brutally raped in sight of the police building. Her attacker went on to kill another woman. During the hearing, former Senator Evie Hudak attacked Ms. Collins, saying “statistics are not on your side”.
SB 196 – Assault Weapons Responsibility Act was introduced by Senate President John Morse. During later testimony for this bill, it was revealed that the bill would have outlawed entire classes of guns. Legal expert David Kopel testified that the bill contained “numerous technical errors and flaws” and that it looked to be “cut and pasted” from similar bills introduced elsewhere in the country. As it turned out, the bill was not even tolerable to his fellow Democrats and Morse withdrew it a few days later. Of course, Morse was subsequently recalled in large part due to this bill.
All told, seven controversial measures were “heard” and moved forward that day. Citizen input was limited and out of state proponents were given the lion’s share of attention and time. This shameful act was the proximate cause for the recall efforts that got underway later in the year and resulted in the recall elections removing Senate President John Morse and Judiciary Committee chairwoman Angela Giron; and ultimately led to the resignation of Senator Evie Hudak, when faced with almost certain recall in another election. While the recalls are reported by the media to be “just about gun control”, they are also in no small part about accountability. By their actions on March 4 and Morse’s boasting of ignoring constituents’ emails (and his hubris in comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln), they clearly showed that they did not consider themselves to be public servants. They were recalled by Democratic voters in Democrat leaning districts in what should be a clear lesson to all politicians.
In Part Four of this series, I will describe the arrival of my CHP and my observations regarding concealed carry as a practitioner. I also describe further reading and study I undertook and the final passage of the five gun control bills.
By Richard D. Turnquist
January 15, 2014
Link to Part Four
Link to Part Five