On Friday, talking to reporters just hours after news broke about the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School -- which left 27 dead, most of them first graders -- Hickenlooper did not back down from his statement that the "time is right" for gun policy discussions. In Colorado. As he noted, it has been nearly five months since a gunman killed twelve and injured dozens more in a Colorado movie theater.
Hickenlooper, however, was short on specifics.In the July 20 Aurora tragedy, suspect James Holmes allegedly purchased one AR-15 assault rifle, one Remington 870 twelve-gauge shotgun and two 40-caliber Glock handguns in addition to thousands of rounds of ammunition -- all of which were discussed in the heated gun debate that followed in Colorado.
Hickenlooper said at the time that he wasn't sure stricter laws would've stopped Holmes from doing the damage he did. But gun control advocates in Colorado began pushing for policies that address the accessibility of guns and ammunition, especially assault weapons. Some called for better systems to prevent those with mental health problems from obtaining guns.
Asked about the topic in a wide-ranging interview with the Associated Press last week, Hickenloopersaid the the upcoming legislative cycle is the right time to consider new gun policies: "I wanted to have at least a couple of months off after the shooting in Aurora to let people process and grieve and get a little space, but it is, I think, now is the time is right."
He added that he'd like to include debates about assault rifles.
On Friday, Hickenlooper had a scheduled appearance and question-and-answer session with reporters as part of a pre-legislative forum -- and the topic of guns was sure to come up. But the stakes were raised given that the meeting began as details were still emerging about the Connecticut tragedy, in which alleged shooter Adam Lanza is suspected of using the same kind of assault rifle as Holmes.
Hickenlooper addressed the tragedy head-on at the start of his speech at the Crowne Plaza Denver Downtown. After a moment of silence, he said, "When you have a horrific and heartbreaking event like this, there are no words that can adequately express how people feel. Our prayers are immediately with the families."
When it was time to take questions, the first reporter noted that the two big topics of the day were marijuana and guns. That reporter asked about pot.
In the subsequent silence, Hickenlooper said, "All right. Who wants to ask the gun question?"
One asked how his personal perspective and the shooting in Connecticut would drive his agenda.
"Well, what I said a couple days ago was it felt like there had been enough time to begin a conversation," Hickenlooper pointed out. "What I'm really saying is to begin to collect the facts and try to make sure we're all playing from the same deck. One thing I've heard again and again around gun issues over the last couple of months, not everybody has the same factual basis.... People are unaware of some of the most basic facts around the issue."
Continue for more of Governor Hickenlooper's comments on gun control.