Governor call for background checks divides during State of State address

DENVER - For much of Governor Hickenlooper's third State of the State address, the spirit of bipartisanism appeared alive and healthy.

Both Democrats and Republicans cheered on many of the points made by the governor's speech.

And then Hickenlooper laid out his first challenge to the 69th Colorado General Assembly.

"Let me prime the pump, why don't we have universal background checks for all gun sales?" Hickenlooper asked.

The first noticeable divide during the State of the State surfaced with Democrats rising to their feet and applauding loudly, contrasted starkly by the sitting, stone-faced Republicans.

If Thursday morning's showing is a precursor, it will be a long and hotly-contested battle to get any type of gun law reforms through the legislature.

"I think a lot of people views of guns as personal property," said Rep. Brian DelGrosso (R-HD 51). "Why should I have to go and tell the government what I'm doing every time I'm with my personal property?

"If I want to sell my neighbor a saw or a gun or a hammer or anything like that, why should I have to go and ask the government's permission to be able to do that?"

State Democrats say they think it is their duty to both protect the freedom of the Second Amendment and also to provide public safety at the same time.

"The Second Amendment is sacrosanct but also public safety is what Coloradoans are making sure we keep an eye out for," Rep. Dan Pabon (D-HD 4) said. "There is some tension between those two."

The topic of gun law reform has entered the national debate after several high-profile shootings in 2012. First responders from one of those shootings, the Aurora Theater Shootings, which resulted in the deaths of 12 people and dozens injured, were in attendance of the State of the State address and received the largest applause of the proceedings.

Rep. Claire Levy (D-HD 13) has already declared her intentions to introduce legislation this session that will ban guns from inside building on all public college campuses.

Levy's bill has not been introduced yet. A legislative aide said the bill is still being written.

The Colorado State Supreme Court struck down a similar ruling last year that did away with the University of Colorado's long-standing ban on guns on campus.

DelGrosso said the governor touched upon the culprit for recent mass shootings -- mental illness.

"We're never going to be able to stop every bad thing that's out there," he said. "But I think we need to start working on the front end like we did talk about on the mental health and making sure we're addressing that."
 

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