The 1999 shootings at Columbine High School put guns at the center of the public scope. But the Second Amendment has long been a loaded issue in Colorado, from decades-old debates over safe storage to a more recent battle over the gun-show "loophole." And the Colorado Legislature's passage this year of SB 24 and SB 25 -- which both usurp Denver's right of home rule on gun issues and increase the number of concealed weapons on Colorado streets -- is just the latest gun go-round to draw fire.
We asked local leaders on both sides of the issue just what it is about guns that provokes such firepower.
Arnold Grossman, political consultant, SAFEColorado board of directors: "I don't know what goes on in the minds of people who feel it is an inalienable right to possess, use and traffic in deadly weapons. I feel that it's an issue that won't be resolved in the near future, probably not in my lifetime. But the reason that I feel so strongly about the issue is very simple: The numbers are what terrify me. Columbine was one very tragic example of where the problem can lead and probably will continue to lead in this country. The number that troubles me so greatly is the number of juvenile deaths in this country. Seven children die, when you average the numbers out, every single day, because of firearms that are left irresponsibly within reach of children, firearms that get in the hands of gang members. What troubles me is that with the two bills that were passed in the last legislature, the feeling was that people got over their grieving over Columbine and seem to be accepting again a proliferation of guns. Those two bills will result in one very dangerous conclusion, and that is that there will be more guns. The only solution is fewer guns, from my point of view."
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Dave Kopel, research director, Independence Institute; media columnist for the Rocky Mountain News: "I think the advocates, the pro-Second Amendment people, see it as very connected to America, to self-government, to individualism, to freedom and to the responsibility to protect their family. Opponents tend to see it having strong symbolic connotations, as well. For them, it symbolizes that fact that the United States, in their view, is not like Europe, where people tend to trust the government to take care of them. People in America have more of a sense to do it themselves. You can be for or against the frontier version of society vs. the Parisian view of society, and I think there are arguments to be made for both. I think the gun issue hits right on that cultural divide between people who think that Montana is a great place to be versus people who think Paris is a great place to be. I like both, by the way, and I don't think anyone should try to impose one on the other."
Tom Mauser, Colorado Ceasefire board of directors, father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser: "I think there are many people who are 'on the fence.' But I think that tension and resentment is created when those people feel pressured, primarily by the gun lobby and the media, to declare themselves as being either pro-gun/pro-Second Amendment or being anti-gun/anti-Second Amendment. I believe that most Americans actually are in the middle -- they support a basic right to bear arms but also favor restrictions and limitations. This was demonstrated in 2000, when 70 percent of Colorado voters voted for Amendment 22, closing the gun-show loophole, against the wishes of the gun lobby."
Rick Stanley, activist, current resident of Adams County Jail, 2002 Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate: "Those of us who understand the gun issue from the pro side understand that when you take guns away, you open yourself up to domination. Whether that comes from individuals or criminals who want to rape you or rape your wife or kill you, you're allowing yourself, when you're not armed, to be a potential victim. People who think that guns should be outlawed have never been victimized. And a lot of them are highly emotional people who do not trust themselves with a gun. Then there's another group of people who trust themselves with guns but don't want other people to have them. I'm not really all that afraid of criminals. Who I'm really afraid of is my government. I call it the fascist tyranny of the Police State of America. People didn't think it could happen in Germany, and they don't think it can happen here. But I'm here to say, it's already here."