Colorado House committee passes two gun control bills

House Judiciary Committee take first votes Tuesday

DENVER - The old Supreme Court chambers were packed as the House Judiciary Committee listened to testimony on two gun control proposals.

The first bill being considered would change the law to require background checks for all firearm purchases, not just those made from licensed dealers. The second bill bans high-capacity gun magazines, defined as holding more than ten rounds. Both are sponsored by Representative Rhonda Fields.

"It's time for us to update our laws here in Colorado so that no one can buy a gun without a background check," said Fields.

Testimony on the background check bill began at 10 a.m. Tuesday and both sides were given two hours to voice their opinions.

"They need to put themselves in the victim's position, shoes and realize that we have a problem that we could prevent. We could make it less of a problem," said Karina Sartiaguin, who is in a wheelchair after she was shot outside of her Aurora high school in December 2010.

"I have a great deal of sympathy for all the people that suffered. We've heard horrendous stories today of what happened, but in none of those instances would this bill have made any change," said Anthony Race, a gun owner against the bill.

The background check plan, designated House Bill 1229, passed the committee with a vote of 7-4. Representatives Bob Gardner, Polly Lawrence, Carole Murray and Jared Wright all voted against the bill. Representatives Daniel Kagan, Pete Lee, John Buckner, Louis Court, Mike McLachlan, Brittany Petersen and Joe Salazar all voted in favor of the bill.

"High capacity magazines were designed for one thing -- to kill large numbers of people as quickly as possible," said legislature sponsor, state representative Rhonda Fields. "They have no place in our community and they have no place in our streets."

Fields, whose son and his fiancee were shot and killed in 2005, admits the legislation will be tough to pass.

Tuesday evening, the committee also passed HB 1224 along party lines, which would prohibit the sale, transfer or purchase of firearms magazines that can hold more than 15 bullets or more than eight shotgun shells.

"Eleven Children managed to escape when the gun jammed and a little boy yelled run!" said Jane Dougherty, the sister of a Sandy Hook victim.

Doug Smith of Magpul, a Boulder company that manufactures firearms magazines raised concerns the bill would force the company to move productions out of state.  Others, like Larimer County Sheriff, Justin Smith, voiced concerns about citizen safety.

"I, in good conscience, cannot strip my citizens of the right to defend themselves," Sheriff Smith said.

The bills are part of a package of proposals Democrats announced last week. Democrats have already rejected Republican ideas to reduce gun violence, including a bill to allow school employees to carry concealed weapons.