Today is the first day of the new legislative session in Colorado -- and in a clear sign of contentious debates to come, a group called Guns for Everyone is staging a "pro-gun rally" to counter expected firearms-control proposals from Democrats this cycle. Organizer Edgar Antillon, a former House district candidate, tells us the event will be about freedom -- a topic, he says, with no room for debate.
"This is about supporting the Second Amendment and supporting our freedoms," says Antillon, a 28-year-old from Westminster. "There are already laws in place to prevent criminals from getting their hands on guns. The problem is, criminals are criminals.... We can ban every single gun and criminals will still have guns."
When it comes to "bans on the so-called high-capacity magazine and the so-called assault rifle, even Governor [John] Hickenlooper is saying it's time to have a debate about guns," he goes on. But in his view, "there's nothing to debate about. My freedom is not up for discussion."
This session, Colorado is expected to see a wide range of proposals for stricter gun policies -- and supporters say there is unprecedented momentum given the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last month, in which twenty young children were killed.
The session is also beginning amid the high-profile preliminary hearing for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, which began in Monday and is continuing today. At the hearing yesterday, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms testified about the purchases Holmes allegedly made of handguns, shotguns, rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition, a 100-round drum magazine, an AR-15 and more before he killed twelve and injured dozens more at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
Representatives Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter, both Democrats, are both pushing forward with gun-control measures in D.C. -- and members of the Colorado House and Senate are already working on different gun-related proposals.
As Antillon referenced, Hickenlooper, too, is supportive of debate on the matter -- a reversal of his stance in the immediate aftermath of the July 20 theater shooting.
Continue for more on the protest planned tomorrow. A supervisor at a private security company, Antillon founded the Guns for Everyone blog in 2009. After he ran for House District 25 in 2010 and lost, the site got more attention, he maintains.
Antillon says he expects more than a hundred people to show up in support of guns for the event at the Capitol at 1 p.m. -- even though he hasn't been coordinating with the main gun organizations in the state.
Supporters of stricter gun measures emphasize that they are not trying to violate the Second Amendment or take away weapons from law-abiding citizens, but simply want common-sense solutions that reduce the risk of mass tragedies and guns getting into the hands of the wrong people.
"Anything against the Second Amendment is not common sense," counters Antillon, who notes that he's a registered Republican but supports gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana and other freedoms. "Anything against the Constitution isn't common sense."
He expects Democrats to push very hard for gun control, especially because the Republicans successfully blocked civil unions in the spring, triggering resentment.
"There are some vengeful people out there," he says.
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