Gun Control Revived with Colorado Democrats' Win; Gun Advocates Warn 'There’s No Sugar-Coating It'

Gun Control Revived with Colorado Democrats' Win; Gun Advocates Warn 'There’s No Sugar-Coating It'
Residents protest guns at the "March for Our Lives" event on March 24, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Dougal Brownlie/The Gazette via AP)

The mass murder of a dozen people at California’s Borderline Bar and Grill, along with a blue wave of Democrats in Denver, has given life to gun-control legislation in Colorado.

Dudley Brown, the executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, warned his pro-gun group’s members that because of Democratic Party victories in Colorado “there’s no sugar coating it; it’s 2013 all over again.”

Colorado Senate Republicans blocked so-called “red flag” legislation last spring that would have allowed judges to order the seizure of guns from people considered to pose a “significant risk” to themselves or others.

The bill was intended to allow relatives, household members or police to petition a judge for a temporary protection order so that firearms could be confiscated from the person considered to be an “extreme risk.”

“I got the biggest round of applause when we talked about the red flag bill, and its demise,” Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg (R) said of his appearance at a county Lincoln Day Dinner following the failure of HB 1436.

But the GOP applause died down after Democrats captured enough Senate seats two days before the Thousand Oaks shooting, giving a revival to red-flag legislation in 2019.

Senate Democrats will hold a 19-16 majority in 2019 after picking up two seats. Dems now control the House and the Senate, along with the offices of attorney general and governor. Rather than being 2013, as Dudley Brown said, it feels more like it’s 1936 again in Colorado. That’s the last time Democrats had such a stranglehold on the state Capitol.

Rep. Alec Garnett (D), who will be the House Majority leader in 2019, told the Denver Post that Democrats have enough power now in the state Capitol to bring red-flag legislation back to the floor for another vote.

“It makes sure that we get a policy through committee and onto the floor of the Senate to have a broad conversation,” said Garnett. “I’m convinced that there were Republican votes on the floor of the Senate to pass this (in May), but they sent it to a committee that it had no chance of getting out of.”

Tom Sullivan is one of the new Democrats elected to the Colorado House. Tom’s son, Alex, was one of the 12 people killed in 2012 when a gunman opened fire on Batman fans at the Aurora, Col., Century 16 movie theater.

“It became my responsibility to make people aware of that and to do whatever I could to make sure that doesn’t happen to anybody else,” Tom Sullivan said to KDVR-TV.

Gov.-elect Jared Polis and Attorney General-elect Phil Weiser support red-flag legislation.

“It still saves lives,” Weiser said. “There have been studies in California; for every 10 red flag orders, it saves a life.”

Tom Mauser, a spokesman for the gun-control group Colorado Ceasefire, hopes red-flag legislation is just the beginning of what Democrats can accomplish in 2019.

Mauser said Ceasefire also wants to see legislation blocking people convicted of violent misdemeanors from owning firearms. He told the Colorado Independent that an assault-style weapons ban is not expected to be a legislative priority.

However, Mauser declined to talk about other gun-control proposals that might be introduced next year.

“We need buy-in from our coalition partners and really don’t want to show our hand at this point,” Mauser explained.

Republican Sen. John Cooke told KUNC he doesn’t see any way the GOP is going to be able to stop Democrats from doing whatever they want for the next couple of years.

“I don’t see them compromising,” Cooke said. “I don’t see them coming to us and wanting to work with us. I see their radical agenda taking place. It’s going to be like living in California or Oregon.”

Dudley Brown doesn’t see it that way. He reminded members of his gun-rights group that they “stopped the worst gun-control schemes” when Democrats took over the Colorado House and Senate in 2012.

Brown said gun owners were able to defeat a proposed ban on semi-automatic firearms and the so-called “rape whistle” bill that he claimed would have left college-age women defenseless.

And Brown said Colorado gun owners even got a measure of revenge against gun-control advocates.

“You and I launched historic recall elections and restored the balance of power in 2014,” Brown wrote in a memo to Rocky Mountain Gun Owners membership.

But Brown is also a realist. As he asked for $20 or $30 donations in the fundraising email, Brown added, “All I can promise today is that we will make the gun grabbers pay for every single inch they try to take.”

“And if it comes to it, politicians who push gun control may have to contend with voters like you much earlier than expected,” Brown concluded. “After all, they wouldn’t be the first Colorado politicians to learn that supporting gun control is a certain path to being booted from office.”