Colorado gun control bills: Ammunition limit heads to governor, background checks near final passage

DENVER - Fiercely debated ammunition limits have cleared Colorado's Democratic Legislature and are on their way to the governor, who has said he'll sign the measure into law. Meanwhile, two Littleton men are trying to block the bill with a constitutional amendment.

The 15-round magazine limit would make Colorado the first state outside the East Coast to ratchet back gun rights after last year's deadly shooting sprees. Colorado's gun-control debates have been closely watched because of the state's gun-loving frontier heritage and painful history of mass shootings.

Tim LeVier and J.T. Davis are oppose the bill and are trying to put the issue to a vote of the people.

The two men have submitted a proposed constitutional amendment to the Colorado Legislative Council.
According to the wording of their proposal, it would establish a right of the people to purchase and possess high capacity ammunition storage and feeding devices.

“We believe in reasonable limits,” LeVier told 7NEWS. “Some of (the legislation) is very reasonable and I applaud the legislature’s efforts. I just want to reign in where I believe they overstepped their bounds.”

LeVier said he might agree with having serial numbers and date of manufacture stamps on the magazines but not an outright ban.

“Personally, I don’t think it should be limited at all,” he said. “But if it is to be limited, I think that’s the right of the people to decide.”

“Well, God Bless Em, for trying,” said Sen. Greg Brophy, a Republican representing Yuma County.

While Brophy gives the two men credit for trying to undo what he sees as bad legislation, he says the issue as something neither lawmakers nor citizens should be involved with.

“I still see this as a (Second Amendment) constitutional issue,” Brophy said. “The people and the Legislature shouldn’t be banning firearms that are commonly used by law abiding citizens.”

The lawmaker who sponsored the bill banning high capacity magazines said LeVier and Davis are within their rights to take the issue to the voters.

“I know that polls suggest that 62 percent of the people in Colorado believe we should ban high capacity magazines,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.

Fields represents the district where a gunman shot and killed 12 theater patrons last July.  She also lost her own son, Javad Marshall Fields, and his fiancé, Vivian Wolfe, to gun violence.

“That’s why I ran this bill, because I know what kind of devastation high capacity magazines cause when someone tries to kill as many people as they want to in a theater,” Fields said.

LeVier said that once the Legislative Council reviews his proposal and offers suggestions on a final draft, it will be forwarded to the Secretary of State’s office.

He said he and Davis will then have to collect upward of 100,000 signatures to get the proposed amendment on the ballot.

After the decision to send magazine limits to Governor John Hickenlooper's desk, lawmakers in the House decided to keep negotiating on a bill to expand background-check requirements to most private and online gun sales.

A total of 5 measures are part of a Democratic gun control package that has been the focus of much debate, drawing thousands to the state Capitol over the past week. The GOP has decried the whole package as a bad reaction to last year's horrific shootings in Newtown, Conn., and at a suburban Denver movie theater.

Monday, state Senators passed five gun control bills. Two of those are the ones being reconciled by the House Wednesday. One went directly to Governor John Hickenlooper's desk, and two more went to the House for the complete consideration process.

Here's the rundown:

- House Bill 1224 would make it a crime to have a magazine that holds more than 15 rounds. Because of changes in the state Senate, the bill went back to the House for reconciliation.

- House Bill 1229 would add a background-check requirement for many guns sold in private transactions. The bill had already been approved by the state House, but because the Senate made amendments it must go back to the House for reconciliation.

If the House takes the procedural vote to streamline the language Wednesday, the measures will go to the governor, who has said he'd sign both measures into law.

- House Bill 1228 would revive fee payments, likely $10, for gun purchasers who need background checks. Having been previously approved by the House, it went to Hickenlooper's desk for a signature. Currently the Colorado Bureau of Investigation does those checks for free. The governor has two business weeks to sign the fee bill, or it becomes law without his signature. Hickenlooper has said he'll sign it.

- Senate Bill 195 would require people seeking concealed carry permits to take gun training courses in person. People can currently take online courses. The Senate initiated bill went to the House for a series of votes.

- Senate Bill 197 would require courts to order anyone subject to a domestic violence protection order or convicted of domestic violence to relinquish their guns within 24 hours. A judge could extend that to 72 hours. That bill also was initiated in the state Senate and went to the state House for a series of votes.

Two parts of the gun package were pulled last Friday because of lack of support. House Bill 1226, which would end Colorado's unusual law barring public college campuses from banning concealed weapons, and Senate Bill 196, which would add legal liability for sellers and owners of assault weapons, were laid over until after the session ends. Therefore, the proposals were effectively defeated.

So far, only New York has approved statewide gun controls in the wake of the mass shootings. Federal gun restrictions are pending in Congress.

The GOP has decried the entire gun package as a bad reaction to last year's horrific mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and at the Aurora movie theater.

"It's about passing something and solving nothing," Senate Republican Leader Bill Cadman complained Monday.

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