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Liability, High Capacity Magazine Ban Among Dems Gun Proposals

Bente Birkeland

State Democrats unveiled a package of proposals Tuesday aimed at cracking down on gun violence.

What’s sure to be one of the more controversial measures would hold manufacturers, owners, and sellers of assault weapons 100 percent liable for shootings.

“The effect is everyone in the chain will be responsible for the actions of that gun,” said Democratic Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs. He’s still working on specifics before he introduces a bill, but says it will send a strong message. “They’ll no longer be able to shift one penny of the responsibility to families, to hospitals, to taxpayers, to anyone else.”

Democratic leaders are also pushing a ban on high capacity magazines and universal background checks for all gun purchases. Representative Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora will sponsor both of those measures. She calls high capacity magazines weapons of war that don’t belong on the streets.

“What we’re talking about will be a fight, it be an uphill challenge. But I believe in my heart that this is a fight we can and we will win and I pledge to the family members behind me that I will not rest until this is done because enough is enough and the time is now,” said Fields.

Republican lawmakers such as Greg Brophy from Wray are already denouncing the proposals. He says it’s especially unfair to hold manufacturers and sellers liable.

“It’s like holding Coors responsible for drunk driving,” said Brophy. “And not just Coors, we’re going to the distributer responsible, and the liquor store from which it was stolen responsible. It’s un-American.”

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a statewide gun rights advocacy group says it’s already working on defeating the package of bills. Executive Director Dudley Brown says short removing all guns from the country, none of the proposals will stop mass shootings. He says the only solution is to arm more responsible people with guns.

“The theater in Aurora should’ve allowed for people to carry concealed handguns in that theater, so people wouldn’t have been defenseless.”

State Democrats have already struck down Republicans proposals to allow for more concealed weapons, for instance in schools. Still Brown says he expects some swing votes to get weak knees as the bills move through both chambers. While Democrats hold a majority, it’s not clear how unified they’ll be on all the measures.

The Governor stopped short of an endorsement. His office says Hickenlooper supports universal background checks and is open to a discussion about magazine limits. His office called the liability proposal creative and says the Governor will carefully review it.

The package of bills is expected to be introduced shortly. 

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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