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December 14, 2012 05:53 PM UTC

Hickenlooper: Let's Talk (Modest) Gun Control Reforms Next Year

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE #4: From President Barack Obama’s emotional statement today:

The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.  They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.  Among the fallen were also teachers — men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.

So our hearts are broken today — for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.  Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.

As a country, we have been through this too many times.  Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.  And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.


UPDATE #3: The first Colorado Republican to opine on the “is it too soon to talk about gun control?” question, quite predictably, is Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman.


UPDATE #2: A statement now available on the Connecticut shootings from Gov. Hickenlooper:

“The shooting in Connecticut is absolutely horrific and heartbreaking. We know too well what impact this kind of violence has on a community and our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are immediately with the families of those killed. We can offer comfort, but we all know the pain will stay forever.”

And from Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado:

“This tragic and senseless shooting is deeply troubling and saddening. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families affected by this terrible tragedy. We in Colorado experienced a similar tragedy earlier this year. Just as we came together then to grieve and support one another, Colorado and our nation will again pull together to support our friends in Connecticut.”

Also Sen. Michael Bennet, a Wesleyan graduate:

“The terrible news out of Connecticut is staggering. Like all Colorado families, my family is grieving and our hearts are with the victims, their families, and all of the students and employees at the school. This is a parent’s worst nightmare. As Coloradans, we know how this type of tragedy can shake a community to its core. We are here for Connecticut as they work together to heal in the days ahead.”


UPDATE: Tragically apropos, CNN is reporting on yet another horrific mass shooting today, this time at a Connecticut elementary school.


As reported by the AP via Politico yesterday:

In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Hickenlooper said that the legislative session in January would be an appropriate time to take up a debate on gun control in his state.

“I wanted to have at least a couple of months off after the shooting in Aurora to let people process and grieve and get a little space, but it is, I think, now is the time is right,” Hickenlooper said.

The comments also come after a mass shooting at an Oregon mall and a murder-suicide involving a professional football player this month touched off a national debate over gun laws…

“When you look at what happened in Aurora, a great deal of that damage was from the large magazine on the AR-15 (rifle). I think we need to have that discussion and say, ‘Where is this appropriate?'”

In the immediate aftermath of the shootings at an Aurora movie theater last summer, Gov. John Hickenlooper expressed skepticism about whether regulations on firearms might have stopped the killer from obtaining his arsenal of weapons, saying on CNN just as one example:

“This person, if there were no assault weapons available, if there were no this or no that, this guy’s going to find something. Right? He’s going to know how to create a bomb,” [Hickenlooper] said.

In Colorado, the slightest move to regulate guns is sure to be met with a furious reaction from our local and very vocal pro-gun lobby. Hickenlooper’s comments last summer were seized upon by pro-gun conservatives as evidence that not even an horrific act of violence could shake the public’s support for easy access to guns, and helped feed a narrative in the press that nothing was going to change after Aurora. Polling on the issue tends to rely on how the question is phrased, with some polls showing persistent support (for years now) for reforms such as universal background checks, but conservative pollsters like Rasmussen showing the opposite.

It’s into this delicate environment that Gov. Hickenlooper has just bravely stepped, and Democrats should give him some credit for doing so. Hickenlooper’s moderate image, often upsetting to the liberal Democratic base, could lend key legitimacy to a push for modest reforms like universal background checks for firearm sales, or limits on outsize ammunition magazines as he mentioned above. Hickenlooper’s apparent willingness to invest his hoarded political capital on this issue could honestly do a lot to relegate the “U.N. gun grab” and other unserious opposition from the gun lobby–and Republican legislators who regurgitate them–to the fringe.


120 thoughts on “Hickenlooper: Let’s Talk (Modest) Gun Control Reforms Next Year

  1. As I wrote in a post soon after the Aurora shooting I think the magazine issue is one that can and needs to be addressed. I am absolutely sure that the NRA will call it gun control and use it as a fundraising opportunity, but there is NO legitimate civilian need for magazines that hold 30 and more rounds

  2. be any more successful than a war on drugs?

    Sure Hick may want to have “modest” gun control – but what makes him think that will reduce gun violence since violating a gun purchase law is much less a big deal than actually using a gun to go on a rampage?

    Just sayin’

  3. criminals will always be able to get guns including any that may be banned by law.  But the mass shootings with high power weapons and huge clips are not being committed by career criminals with lots of street smarts and underworld connections.  They are being committed by seriously unbalanced amateurs without those connections who would have a hard time accumulating that level of firepower if it weren’t so easy.

    A reasonable level of gun control wouldn’t prevent the law abiding from arming themselves and a theater full of amateurs opening fire on bad guys with military style weapons would probably not do much to keep the mortality rate down, especially with an armored shooter.  Or should we all go to the movies and to school armed and armored?

  4. of the 25,000 gun-related homicides in this country every year.  Handguns are the real issue.   Note that about half of those 25,000 homicides are suicides, which count as homicides.   Suicide attempts are var more likely to succeed when guns are available.

      Possibly the high-profile mass killings will bring some piddling restrictions on assault-style weapons like the AR-15 and Kalashnakov knockoffs, which are usually semi-automatic.

      But the easily-concealed handgun will remain the real merchant of violent death in America.        

  5. And, if there is any justice in the world, the press will not sensationalize the shooter.  He or she needs to rest in an anonymous hell, not glorified with front page pictures and “bio of a killer” crap.

    I’m not holding my breath, of course.

  6. I would propose that there be a federal tax on all gun and ammunition sales with all revenues going to the identification and treatment of mental illness.  I am sure that all of us who support the 2nd amendment right to gun ownership will enthusiastically join in a campaign to fully fund the needs in this area.

  7. that in the hours since this rampage, gun sales are up with all the paranoids afraid that their “rights” might get restricted. Right now gun stores are calling in extra help for the weekend hours.

    We are sick

  8. Of 61 mass killings in the last 20 years (not including today’s horror), the guns were obtained legally in 49 and perhaps 50.  The problem isn’t just that outlaws have guns; it’s also that not enough guns are outlawed.

    18 dead babies.  An entire (kindergarten?) class unaccounted for.  Jesus Christ.

  9. Down one path we go the way of Iraq where deadly violence becomes an accepted everyday occurrence.

    Down the other we address the sickness our culture has around guns. Gun control is a part of that, but just a part.

    It will take a lot of work and a lot of political bravery, on an ongoing basis, to take the 2nd path. I sure hope we can get there.

  10. Check out these GOP comments about Hickenlooper’s request to discuss gun laws in today’s Denver Post that I read this morning, just hours before the magnitude of today’s shootings became known:

    Dick Wadhams: “I hope he’s (Hickenlooper’s) not in too much pain from the case of ideological whiplash he’s suffering.”

    Sen. Bill Cadman: “The governor now appears to be succumbing to political pressure from extreme elements in his party, and this is disappointing.”

    Rep. Mark Waller: “I’m guessing he got some grief from the far left when he made those comments, and that has caused his shift.”

    Jon Caldara: “It’s a shame he decided to flip-flop on the issue, and it’s also too bad that he’s not using this to delve into the real issue, which is mental health.”

    Do you think they’d be moaning about the country’s “mental health problem” if their child had been shot?

  11. Gun control conversation set aside for this comment, I place part of the blame for these tragedies on the shoulders of anyone and everyone who has criticized people who seek health care as wanting “gifts” or “entitlements,” in that derisive tone that suggests these people are “takers” sapping society’s resources for their own selfish needs.

    The stigma associated with seeking mental health care is weaker today than it’s ever been, with numerous beloved public figures talking openly about their struggles with mental illness. However, it’s gone from being a problem nobody can admit to having to a problem that you can talk about openly… if you’re independently wealthy. It’s become even more shameful to need mental health care and be unable to afford the exorbitant price of treatment, especially the residential treatment from which most people who are at risk to commit violent acts would benefit. If you can’t pay out of pocket (and as a low-income, mentally ill person and/or a teenager/20-something, you can’t) then seeking help, even for a serious mental health condition, is an “entitlement complex.”

    We need to radically revise our thinking and hold accountable anyone who reinforces this perception. People who recognize that they are at risk to harm themselves or others and voluntarily seek help are giving a gift to society, often at tremendous cost to themselves. They are not taking from society or expecting gifts from society. They are choosing to suffer through the very, very difficult process of treatment for a serious condition–which may mean relinquishing some of their freedoms permanently–to prevent themselves from doing harm. Anyone who recognizes their own mental illness is dangerous and attempts to access supports and services to get better deserves our respect and assistance.

    I’ve said it here before multiple times: If I ever get up enough funds to do it, my contribution to society will be walk-in, youth-friendly therapy centers based on the Planned Parenthood model of accessibility, openness, privacy, and destigmatization.

  12. If there’s to be a progressive/reactionary conversational and legal war about guns, it’s going to be long, drawn out, hand to hand combat.

    It seems to me, the most effective weapon for progressive change (borrowed from past reactionary — ok, “conservative” — victories) will be absolute intolerance toward attitudes and arguments that excuse mass gun ownership, unregulated access to guns, so-called “rights” to bear guns, weaselly transference of blame for gun atrocities and dangerous “what we need is more guns” gun solutions. One on one, person to person, excuse after excuse, time after time, we must no longer tolerate horse shit.

    A couple of examples where steadfast and vocal intolerance has had success: Even after the often-violent civil rights protests, after passage of the ’64 Civil Rights Act, after fair lending practices, fair work place treatment and fair housing access decrees became accepted, slurs and stereotyping continue, but open racial discrimination has abated considerably.

    Ditto, the relentless historical assault on gay people. The Stonewall rebellion, granting of employee partnership benefits, civil unions legislation, even presidential support, haven’t stopped open hospitality and discrimination, but homosexuals and bisexuals have gained substantial social and political standing.

    But as more and more people demonstrate thier intolerance for discrimination and bigotry and start saying a few simple things, the social climate, at least, will change for the better. It’s already changing.

    How do we show our intolerance?

    — “Dude, do you know how ignorant you sound?” or

    — “Hey, I love you, buddy, but as long as you’re around me, don’t use that word.”

    — “You know, you’re talking about my sis. If you knew anything about it you wouldn’t talk like that.”

    — “Do you guys know you’re offending all the tables around you?”

    Intimate social pressure works. Why do most people hold unacceptable anti-social views? Because they usually hear everyone close around them saying the same stuff over and over and over again. It’s circular re-enforcement. Swift and determined intolerance for their horseshit breaks the circle and, even if briefly, interjects questions into their group affirmation.

    — “George, you know as well as I do that this isn’t a hunting issue. Now get real.”

    — “Of course people kill people. But can’t you come up with a smarter answer than that?”

    — “I didn’t expect you, of all people, to start sounding like all those idiots on Fox.”

    — “Dad, I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but Jack and I just don’t have your level of insecurity.”

    Long arguments and drawn out tits for tats, whether constitutional or Biblical or whatever, are useless. We just let them know, one on one, time after time, we don’t approve and show them the hand. “Whatever. At least you know where I stand.”

    Sure, sometimes it will take a hell of a lot more courage than walking into a kindergarten armed with 300 rounds. Or blasting a girlfriend outweighed by 50 pounds. Or bragging that if we’d been there in that theater with our AK Whatever, by God, we’d have… .

    Somehow we’ve got to make the current social acceptance and glorification of guns unacceptable. We must not tolerate the current social approval.

    Meanwhile, we keep the conversation alive for regulation, we work on our legislators and we support leaders like Hickenlooper who step up.

  13. By every standard, the leaders and (many) members are engaging in terrrorist activities.  They are holding ordinary, peace loving citizens hostage to their ideology, based on an out of date constitutional amendment.  (Where are the militias?  Oh, turned into National Guards 100 years ago.)

    Like the fear that so many Americans have thinking about Ay-rabs and Muslims, politicians live in fear of the power of the NRA.

    I remember when they were about hunter safety and education.  I got one of those badges 50 years ago.  Now it’s about politics and terror.

  14. In Colorado, the slightest move to regulate guns is sure to be met with a furious reaction from our local and very vocal pro-gun lobby.

    But it’s our job–and it is our job–to overwhelm them just as furiously. We, not lobbyists, are the citizens.

    It’s time for snail mail, phone calls, e-mails, petitions and personal appearances. Our city, national and state legislators (D or R, makes no difference) need to hear from us. So do our mayors, governor and president. And so does the NRA.

    And don’t tolerate one more ignorant remark from friends or family members.

    Fuck the gun lobbyists. It’s up to us to make them pariahs in America.

  15. Check out what a teacher has to say about that”

    Kids steal anything that isn’t nailed down in my classroom. In this school year alone, I’ve “lost”: 2 staplers, 12 whiteboard markers, 1 globe, 1 map, 1 copy of The Color Purple, 3 boxes of staples, countless pens and pencils, an apple, my deskplate, and a years’ supply of tacks. If I yawned long enough, these kids would pluck the fillings right out of my mouth and this guy thinks I should have a GUN in the CLASSROOM? Where the fuck would I securely keep a gun? Because I’m sure as shit not packing one on my person. and even if teachers are allowed to carry guns, then what? We’re all supposed to take marksmanship classes to learn how to shoot the damn things? How is this anything but a cheap way of turning teachers into unsworn police officers?

    No. No. No. Teachers teach. Police officers police. And legislators are supposed to legislate. Maybe instead of trying to add to the burden of my jobs, legislators should take a crack at doing theirs.

  16. What really needs to change is the standard for being too mentally ill to own a firearm. Having a documented illness, and/or needing medication to control it will not keep a person from purchasing a weapon. Only involuntary commitment gets a person on “the do not sell to” blacklist. Sometime this terrifies me. My partner has a serious illness and has taken the concealed carry class to overcome a phobia about guns. Crack shot,too. She’s hospitalized herself in the past, but because she’s never been committed by a mental health professional she could legally buy a firearm. Usually, she has better sense, but I worry that in a serious depressive episode she could become suicidal and get her hands on a perfectly legally purchased weapon.I always wonder how many of these mass shooters have been treated but never involuntarily committed. Sometimes we know, as in the man who shot Rep. Giffords, but usually we don’t.                                                                      

  17. Whistling Past the Gun Lobby

    it was time for Democrats to stop running scared of the views of Southern whites – they weren’t going to get those votes anyway, and demographic change had proceeded to the point where they could win national elections without the South. Indeed, so it has come to pass: while Obama did win Virginia, he did it by appealing to the new Virginia of the DC suburbs, not the rural whites, and otherwise he had a totally non-Dixie victory.

    So Nate Cohn argues that this same logic applies to gun control: the voters who care passionately about their semi-automatic weapons are rural whites who ain’t gonna vote Democratic in any case – and the new Democratic coalition doesn’t need them. David Atkins takes it further, saying the awful truth: the pro-gun fanatics are basically the kind of people who think that Obama is a Kenyan socialist atheistic Islamist, and the urban hordes are coming for their property any day now. People, in other words, who already vote 100 percent Republican – and lose elections.

    Not so sure about that in Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc.

  18. Today, Tracy Kraft Tharpe posted this link in Facebook,

    If you have the time, it is a thought provoking insight into the rash of tragic shootings we have seen in recent years.

    I have a family member who could have written this article. And this gave me great pause.

    Yes, we need to do something about guns but that is not the lone piece to this puzzle. Our country has decimated our mental health safety net since the 80’s. it is time we have a serious conversation on restoring a modern mental health safety net for families struggling with mentally ill children. And stop passing the buck to law enforcement.

    Every approach that is needed, mental health and a serious effort at approaching gun control from a thoughtful point of view is needed here.

    This will not be cheap or easy but how many lives are we willing to sacrifice for the sacred 2nd amendment and because it will be expensive?

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