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Aurora's Steve Hogan: Why didn't he join anti-illegal gun mayors group after theater shooting?

Steve Hogan, mayor of Aurora, the city where Century 16 shooting suspect James Holmes allegedly killed twelve people and injured dozens more, is not joining a nationwide coalition of mayors that supports stricter gun laws. In response, the group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, argues that Hogan should join fellow city leaders to address an issue that crosses state lines.

Hogan's decision not to support Mayors Against Illegal Guns was first reported by the Denver Post, which wrote:

Hogan, a Republican, said Thursday that gun issues are an emotional topic in Aurora, considering the aftermath of the July 20 mass shooting at a movie theater that left 12 dead and 58 wounded -- though the shooting suspect did not possess any illegal weapons.

But the mayor said he has ideological issues with the group.

"I've heard of the coalition, but to me this is not a national issue," Hogan said. "Gun control is handled at the state level."
Families of the Aurora victims together for their first joint public appearance back in August.
Families of the Aurora victims together for their first joint public appearance back in August.
Sam Levin

When asked about the comments today, an Aurora spokeswoman sends along this statement from Hogan, which takes a somewhat different tone and doesn't discuss "ideological issues:"

My comment concerning Mayors Against Illegal Guns has to do with the relative worth of signing up for a committee versus getting illegal guns off the street. I have great respect for the mayors who have signed up with the group, but none of them are the mayor of Aurora, or have an impact in Aurora. Like all of them, I am opposed to illegal guns in Aurora. I have done, and will continue to do, what is necessary to get them off the streets.

While that statement veers away from his original comments, his spokeswoman says Hogan stands by his quotes in the Post and believes gun control is an issue that should be addressed at a state level.

There have been a lot of debates in recent months around access to guns in Colorado, sparked in part by the the Aurora theater shooting, in which Holmes allegedly purchased one AR-15 assault rifle, one Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun and two 40-caliber Glock handguns. He also had around 3,000 rounds of ammunition for his assault rifle, 3,000 rounds for the handguns and 300 rounds for the shotgun.

Local legislators and advocates have since proposed a range of policy changes, including a reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons, limits on online ammunition sales and the closure of loopholes in the way that mental health records are considered in background checks.

Today, Mayors Against Illegal Guns -- a bipartisan group of city mayors promoting tougher federal, state, and local gun regulation -- held a conference call with reporters to announce a poll that, in the group's view, shows that the National Rifle Association was not effective at swaying voters in the swing states of Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina. The poll, on view below, says that despite significant NRA spending, voters in these states generally support gun law reforms and want to see the president prioritize the issue.

On the call, we asked Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, what he thought of Hogan's comments against the coalition, which includes more than 700 mayors from across the country -- and thirteen from Colorado.

"We respect the mayor's view...but we happen to believe it is incorrect," he said.

Continue for more response from Mayors Against Illegal Guns and for the full poll released today.

 

Regarding the argument that gun policy is a states' issue that doesn't require this kind of response from a national organization, Glaze notes that around 35 percent of guns at Colorado crime scenes are traced to other states -- a number that's a bit higher than the national average of 30 percent.

Anti-gun sign at a Denver peace march over the summer.
Anti-gun sign at a Denver peace march over the summer.
Sam Levin

In addition, he noted that following a successful state initiative in 2000 to close a gun show loophole, with 70 percent voter support, the rate of guns exported from Colorado has declined. This, he said, shows that questions of gun policy extend across state borders. In 2000, the state was the seventeenth largest exporter of guns later found at crime scenes in other states, and a year after the law was passed, it ranked at 27th. By 2009, Colorado ranked at number 32 in this category.

"When a high-profile shooting happens and local officials throw up their hands, it's always disappointing," said Glaze, adding, "We also see it as an opportunity to work with them and demonstrate that there are lots of ways to keep guns out of the wrong hands that do nothing to get in the way of [law-abiding gun owners]."

In response to Hogan questioning the worth of signing up for this kind of committee, Glaze said, "Mayors are influential in state legislatures and in Washington, because they understand gun violence better than anyone.

"When a police officer is shot at 3 a.m, it's the mayor that gets the call, not the congressman and not the senator," he continued. "When mayors tell other elected officials that there are five easy reforms that respect the Second Amendment but make it much harder for criminals to get illegal guns, that message resonates. And the more mayors we have, the more effective it will be."

While it is believed that Holmes legally purchased his weapons legally, there are still many policy changes and reforms that governments should consider to try and avoid this type of tragedy in the future, Glaze said.

"Everybody acknowledges that...no one fix is going to stop every mad man. So you do the things you know will make it harder for them to kill dozens of people," he said. "If we had a mental health system that more effectively identified people who clearly are a danger to themselves and others and got those names into the background check database, then you would reduce the chances that an Aurora shooter, a Tucson shooter, a Virginia Tech shooter will change a lot of lives forever in a few minutes."

Continue for the full battleground poll that Mayors Against Illegal Guns released today.

 

Here's the poll. Battleground Poll

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "CU releases some documents related to James Holmes, including a second ID photo"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.


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