Democrats Stand Their Ground On Background Checks

Sheriff Andy Taylor and his deputy,

Sheriff Andy Taylor and his deputy, “Crazy Gun Barney” Fife.

​FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports on yesterday's all-day debate in the Colorado Senate State Affairs committee over Senate Bill 14-094, Sen. George Rivera's (R-Recall) bill to repeal last year's universal background check law for gun purchases:

Republicans, having gained two senate seats last fall from recall elections sparked by a backlash to the Democratic gun bills, are pushing several bills this year ostensibly aimed at repealing the laws enacted last year and keeping the issue front and center heading into this fall’s election, a more attainable goal.

Democrats, now holding just a one-seat majority in the state senate, sought to improve the legislative process this time around, allowing several hours for everyone in the chamber to testify on the record after complaints about last year, when Democrats scheduled all seven gun bills in two committees on the same day.

And a year after watching GOP opponents dominate debate on these bills, Democrats vigorously defended the policy itself, aggressively cross-examining Republicans looking to scrap the new law and offering a number of statistics to demonstrate that background checks on private sales are working.

“Over 100 criminals and other dangerous persons have been denied the purchase of guns in private sales,” said Eileen McCarron, the director of Colorado Ceasefire, at a press conference before Senate Bill 94 was heard by the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Last year, Senate leadership scheduled all seven of the principal gun safety bills under consideration for debate all on a single day, March 4th. This resulted in an enormous crush of witnesses waiting to testify against the bills, marshaled to the Capitol by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and other pro-gun groups. Outside, more pro-gun protesters circled the building honking their horns continuously. We can't say in hindsight that jamming all of these bills into a single day's calendar was a good idea. In addition to inflaming passions in the crowd of "witnesses" set to testify, that decision gave Republicans a process-based rallying cry which allowed them to reach conservative voters who aren't as passionate about guns.

And folks, the throngs of angry, ignorant Joe Six-Packs really don't add much to the debate. Lawmakers can't say it, of course, but we will. Listening to a dozen (or hundred) gratingly inarticulate citizens recite the same fact-challenged or logically fallacious arguments from the same emailed script does, to put it charitably, very little to illuminate a discussion. If you have nothing meaningful to add, it's a waste of everyone's time.

Interestingly, however, by the end of yesterday's long hearing, pro-gun testimony wasn't even the majority.

One interesting change in the hearing yesterday was the decision to alternate testimony between supporters and opponents of the bill, which interrupted the momentum of the gun lobby. Eventually, despite the hearing in the Old Supreme Court chambers being standing room only at the outset, more people testified against repealing universal background checks than in support of repeal. In addition, Democrats on the committee stood their ground, responding calmly and factually, avoiding any of the misstatements and gaffes that plagued them last year on this issue. In the end, Republican Sen. Ted Harvey, who emerged as the leading advocate for Sen. Rivera's bill, was thanking Democrats for the fair hearing, and his case against background checks had fallen entirely flat.

All told, this was a strangely anticlimactic end to what we truly thought would be a bigger fight. And for Republicans hoping to keep the outrage over "gun control" going through November, that's a problematic development.

13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. davebarnes says:

    Very interesting.
    No hordes of gun nuts testifying. Are they resigned to background checks?

  2. BlueCat says:

    Democrats standing their ground on anything is encouraging.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      With all due respect BC, I think that's inappropriate in this case. Dems in the Colorado legislature stuck their necks way out last year and not just on guns. They deserve our respect and support. Morgan Carroll ain't no Harry Reid, so let's please not confuse the two, ok?

  3. nancycronk says:

    I was there for a few hours yesterday, but was so far down the list of people wanting to testify, I had to leave before they called my name (which is wierd because I arrived 15 minutes early and thought I was 4th on the list — they must make these lists before people start arriving which seems a little unfair to the average Coloradan who represents themselves). 

    Senator Harvey left the room every time an opponent of the billl spoke, even when it was a parent of a murdered child from Columbine or the Aurora theater. My friends sitting next to me, who had never been to a hearing before, kept whispering to me how incredibly disrespectful he was. She couldn't believe it. When Harvey was in the room, he said the bill, which allowed people to lend a gun to a friend for 72 hours without a background check (overly lenient to the average reasonable person) would somehow prevent him from going hunting because he doesn't own any guns, and when he borrows them, it is for more than 3 days. His argument sounded absolutely ridiculous. One of the women who testified said, "I go skiing, and I own my own skis." Harvey then whined about how little he was paid as a state legislator, arguing that he couldn't afford to buy a gun based on his salary. (It would be interesting for someone to look it up and see if he really has purchased a permit to own a gun.)

    Another woman testified, "I would never lend my gun to anyone." She went on to say how she used to be a member of the NRA but she is now ashamed to admit it, since they had gone off the deep-end of providing misinformation and stirring up baseless fears. I wanted to hug her.

    Other witnesses on the repeal side gave emotional please about how no one should take away their guns. One of them was a Colonel in the U.S. Military (I forgot which branch). Senators Aguilar and Ulibarri had enough class to not tell these people  no one was trying to take away their guns. Senator Ulibarri thanked the man for his service. 

    Lots of interesting testimony. Not sure how an average citizen gets higher up on these lists to testify since time and time again, the lists seem stacked before the line forms. Another friend joked I should have slipped someone a $20 bill. I'm beginning to wonder.

    • Ralphie says:

      When Harvey was in the room, he said the bill, which allowed people to lend a gun to a friend for 72 hours without a background check (overly lenient to the average reasonable person) would somehow prevent him from going hunting because he doesn't own any guns, and when he borrows them, it is for more than 3 days.

      This strongly implies that Harvey couldn't pass a background check. I wonder if that's what he intended?

  4. doremi says:

    One of the most significant items from the long hearing was a lengthy set of questions of Victor Head, who ran the recall effort of Sen. Giron in Pueblo (Sen. Rivera, sponsor of the bill, replaced Giron).  After intense questioning, especially by Sen. Irene Aguilar,  Head admitted (actually he bragged) about convincing many people to sign the recall petition by telling them they couldn't loan a gun to a brother under the new law.  That is totally untrue.  Praise to Sen. Aguilar for ferreting out the lies behind the recalls, and sadness that Giron's recall ever got on the ballot, when the organizers were being intentionally duplicitous.


    • mamajama55 says:

      I think that's why they keep pounding this false talking point about how the background check law prevents them from giving their grandkids a BB gun, or whatever.

      They've read the law; they know it's not true; but they've been saying it to so many people for so long that they're afraid to change their position now.  Plus, without that plea to arm family members, or loan a gun to their hunting buddies, what other arguments do they have to contest this law? Not a damn thing.

      I'm trying to find Head's exact words, and will nail him with it every chance I get.

      By the way, I agree with Modster that the next "repeal gun laws" bill on the magazine ban will be more dramatic. A big waste of time, but more dramatic.

      Hopefully, we can pull together as many people from Colorado Ceasefire, Moms Demand Gun Sense, and other "sensible gun laws" groups as we did yesterday.

      Congratulations to Senators Aguilar, Ulibarri, Jones and the other Senators for running a tight, courteous hearing. No one can say that they weren't listened to. 

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