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Gun policies: Colorado Democrats propose sweeping changes

Mark Ferrandino.
Mark Ferrandino.

Colorado Democrat leaders proposed an array of gun control measures today that would lead to comprehensive state policy changes.

The proposed legislation addresses assault-rifle ownership, modernizing the current background check system, a high-capacity magazine ban and strengthening mental health resources.

Backed by family members of victims from the mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown, Connecticut, Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino opened a press conference this morning with a statement emphasizing that "it is for you we are here today."

Lawmakers are taking a measured approach that will respect the rights of hunters and sportsmen to own firearms, he added.

"The legislation we introduce today will not bring all gun violence in Colorado to a screeching halt, but it will reduce gun violence," he said.

The proposed acts:

Assault Weapon Responsibility Act, sponsored by Senate President John Morse and Representative Beth McCann.

This act aims to effectively change the definition of what constitutes a "military-style assault weapon" in the state of Colorado. If passed, the measure will impose liability for any damage done by military-style assault weapons on manufacturers, sellers, owners and possessors of firearms, with the exception of handguns, bolt action rifles and shotguns. It will not ban any firearms.

Firearm Background Check Modernization Act, sponsored by representatives Rhonda Fields and Beth McCann and Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll.

The act calls for background checks on all gun buyers, regardless of how they acquire the guns, including purchases from private sellers. The bill would require all guns to be purchased from licensed dealers and includes provisions to enhance the "real-time sharing of mental health data" between state and federal law enforcement agencies. The act also has a provision allowing anyone denied access to firearms to appeal the denial.

Family members of victims from recent mass shootings gathered to demonstrate support for lawmakers.
Family members of victims from recent mass shootings gathered to demonstrate support for lawmakers.

High-Capacity Magazine Ban (still in drafting process), sponsored by Representative Rhonda Fields and Senator Mary Hodge.

The bill would ban the sale, transfer and ownership of any ammunition-feeding devices that hold more than ten rounds following the bill's enactment. For large-capacity devices already under ownership, the bill would ban their sale or transfer, as well.

Mental Health Support (still in drafting process), sponsored by Representative Beth McCann.

Under this bill, mental health professionals would be required to notify the Colorado Bureau of Investigation if a person is determined to pose a danger of physical harm to themselves or others. The CBI would add that information into the background check database, so that person would not be eligible to purchase a gun. The bill also requires that a person recently released from jail be evaluated by a mental-health professional if the crime was involved danger. A person assessed as "dangerous" would be flagged in the background check system. The bill provides an opportunity for an individual to have gun rights restored through the courts.

Dudley Brown speaks to reporters about plans to combat legislation.
Dudley Brown speaks to reporters about plans to combat legislation.

Dudley Brown, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organization, spoke after the press conference, giving a rebuttal to the proposed legislation.

"I will say this: none of the suggested solutions to the shootings have stopped any of the shootings. Adam Lanza and James Holmes, by all records, would still have been able to acquire firearms, and who would have stopped them," he said. "So, yeah, we're going to oppose these; we're going to work very hard to defeat them all."

The completed bills could be introduced as early as February 6, but there is no official timetable for the bills still in the drafting process.

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Stephen Barton, Aurora victim and gun control advocate, grew up ten minutes from Newtown."


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