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House Committee Approves Expanded Background Checks and Ammunition Limits

Bill Bradford
Flickr - Creative Commons

A huge crowd turned out for the first hearing on two key Democratic gun proposals Tuesday.

One of the proposals would require universal background checks for gun purchases; the other seeks to ban high capacity magazines. Both bills passed their first test, the House judiciary committee.

Things got testy right away when Representative Beth McCann (D- Denver) took to the podium to explain her bill requiring universal background checks on all gun purchases.

“If you wanted to get a gun and knew you couldn’t pass the background check, what would you do? You would go to a private seller, you would go on the Internet, and you would get your gun. What’s the point of having a background check if we have this enormous loophole?” said McCann.

The crowd murmured and people even booed when McCann touched on second amendment rights.

“Constitutional rights can be limited by reasonable restrictions by the government. It’s a reasonable regulation,” said McCann.

According to gun control advocates about 40 percent of guns purchased nationwide are through private sellers, which don’t require background checks.

“Background checks work, they will strengthen our shield,” said David Chipman, a former agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms. “After Columbine I thought never again, after Virginia Tech, after Tucson, after Aurora, but after Sandy Hook I shuttered because I thought this is going to happen again if we don’t act now.”

Opponents say background checks won’t prevent mass shootings or other violent crimes. They also worry background checks between private individuals would be impossible to enforce and lead to a government run gun registry.

“Government keeps extending their power and taking away our rights. I’ve had guns since I was 16 years old. Not one has gotten up and shot anybody,” said Douglas Howell who testified that lawmakers are responding emotionally not rationally.

Others say it will make it more difficult for them to legally sell a gun and exercise their second amendment rights. After a roughly six hour hearing, the House Judiciary committee passed the bill on a party line 7 to 4 vote.

Gun advocates were also on hand to oppose house bill 1224, which would ban high capacity magazines.

“Nobody, nobody on either side of this issue wants bad people to have guns or anybody to be shot. I lost my own brother to gun violence,” said Phil Olson from Colorado Springs. He’s an opponent of limits that took the day off work to attend the hearing.

“When I’m at home, but do I want to be caught in the middle of a Katrina or a snowstorm where there are no police and I can’t defend myself?,” said Olson.

Democratic representative Rhonda Fields of Aurora is the bill’s main sponsor. She’s a staunch gun control advocate whose own son was shot in 2005.

“High capacity magazines were designed for one thing, to kill large numbers of people as quickly as possible. They have no place in our community; they have no place in our streets.”

Democrats aren’t united on the bill and some worry it’s too extreme. Against the wishes of the sponsor, the Democratic controlled committee passed an amendment to raise the magazine limit from 10 to 15 rounds of ammunition.

It wasn’t enough to get any Republican support for magazine limits and the measure ultimately passed along party lines. It will now go to the full house for further debate.

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