Gun control: Ed Perlmutter will introduce assault weapons ban on day one of Congress

In the days following the movie theater massacre in July, Representative Ed Perlmutter, whose district then included Aurora, was one of the few local politicians who called for a gun policy change: the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. He's been working on that legislation for months, but given the Connecticut tragedy on Friday, in which the shooter used an assault rifle, Perlmutter now plans to introduce his bill at the very start of the new Congress in January.

James Holmes, charged with the Aurora shootings, was accused of having four guns, including an assault rifle, and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition. But few Colorado elected officials spoke out about specific gun policies.

At the time, Perlmutter told us that it was a personal challenge for him to talk about legislation in the wake of such a devastating attack so close to home, but that, ultimately, he felt he couldn't ignore the need for this kind of change.

The alleged shooter in last week's unimaginable elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of twenty children and six adults, used a semiautomatic Buschmaster .223 rifle.

Perlmutter's office announced yesterday that he plans to introduce a "new, improved Assault Weapons Ban" with Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York when Congress returns in January. His staff says he is working with members of the House and Senator Diane Feinstein to prepare the bill, which would outlaw the future sale of assault weapons, but, they say, protect the Second Amendment and provide exemptions for firearms used for sport, hunting and personal defense.

Perlmutter's bill will be the companion measure to a bill that will be introduced in the Senate by Feinstein, of California, who recently announced that she would bring this bill forward on the very first day possible.

"We had been working on it all fall," says Leslie Oliver, spokeswoman and policy director for Perlmutter. "We knew [we would introduce it]...early, it was just a matter of, are we ready to go? And I think Friday really sort of solidified that it's time."

She adds, "It should be dropped on January 3."

Just like the Aurora shooting, this latest shooting has been difficult for Perlmutter personally, Oliver says.

"Like most people in the country, it's raw still and it's very emotional," she says. "It does bring back everything that happened in Aurora, everything that happened with Gabby Giffords, everything that happened in Columbine. This is an issue that keeps coming up and he just feels very strongly that we have to act on this and it's Congress' responsibility to act. He's ready to take it on."

Continue for more on other gun control measures under discussion in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.

Perlmutter's policy move comes as Governor John Hickenlooper, in a shift from his position this summer, has said that the time has come to have a gun policy debate in the upcoming legislative cycle. He has yet to say anything too specific, though.

At the same time, President Obama has said that he does support the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, one of his more specific policy statements on gun control. After Aurora, he said that these kinds of military weapons do not belong in the hands of regular civilians, but he did not make any policy pushes.

Perlmutter is also backing a bill that would ban the production and sale of high-capacity ammunition clips, like those used in Connecticut, which Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is promoting in a press conference today alongside Representative Diana DeGette, who also proposed gun control legislation in the wake of the Aurora shooting.

Oliver says that Perlmutter supports this measure and that he and his colleagues are pushing for a vote before the current Congress ends this year. If it does not come to a vote, she says, then this ban on high-capacity magazines would be included in Perlmutter's assault weapons ban to be introduced next month.

Oliver notes that he has supported an assault weapons ban since he was a state senator in Colorado, but that this is the first time he's introducing it.

In a statement, Perlmutter says this is not about gun control, but crime control:

It's time to do more than have a conversation about guns. It is Congress' responsibility to lead, and it's time for me to take action. This is about crime control and doing what we can to deter and prevent the kinds of tragedies we've experienced all too often in the last few years.

I've heard from so many law enforcement officers, people in my district and across the Colorado and the country who want us to move forward in a responsible way limiting access to weapons belong on battlefields. Our plan to renew the assault weapons ban takes these dangerous 'weapons of war' off the streets while protecting the rights of responsible gun owners and keeping our citizens safe.

More from our Politics archive: "John Hickenlooper unveils new mental-health plan, days after Newtown tragedy"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at [email protected].

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin