Colorado Democrats advanced aggressive gun-control proposals after a 12-hour marathon debate Friday in a state wrestling with its history of heartbreaking shootings and Western heritage where gun ownership is treasured by many.
Democrats moved forward with new ammunition magazine limits and universal background checks. But they withdrew two of the most controversial pieces of the package, including a gun ban on college campuses and a measure to hold assault-weapon owners liable for damages caused by their weapons.
The Colorado debate is being watched nationally as a bellwether of how far politically moderate states are willing to go with new gun laws in the wake of mass shootings in a suburban Denver movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school. It’s also playing out in a state where one of the nation’s most high-profile school massacres — the 1999 Columbine High School shootings — took place.
Already the White House has weighed in, with Vice President Joe Biden phoning four lawmakers while on a recent ski vacation here to nudge the Democrats during their first major gun debate last month.
Democratic Senate President John Morse claimed victory in the state’s overall gun-control debate, even as he conceded the battle grew ugly.
“Cleansing a sickness from our souls doesn’t come easy. It’s gruesome,” Morse said in a short speech announcing the withdrawal of his assault-weapon liability measure.
Morse’s comments punctuated a nasty, drawn-out debate that drew thousands to the state Capitol over recent days. The gun package jammed legislative emails, prompted several gun-supporting businesses to threaten to leave Colorado and left one man facing criminal charges for threatening messages he allegedly sent a Democratic sponsor of some of the bills.