When Colorado had a split legislature, John Hickenlooper had the reputation of being a moderate Democrat, but after the 2012 election, with the state’s solid blue government, this has quickly proven false. Three gun control bills passed successfully through the State Legislature and to Hickenlooper’s desk this month, and he signed them all Wednesday, despite an enormous public outcry and the threat of one business employing nearly 1000 people to leave the state.
The bills, which put Colorado in the ranks of most anti-gun states in the Country, creates universal background checks (including when a gun is bequeathed or even lent to a spouse or family member for more than 72 hours), background check fees for all gun transactions (again including lending, such as when the on-paper gun “owner” is out of town), and limits magazine size to 15 rounds.
Some interpretations of the bill would criminalize (not simply make illegal) any gun able to hold more than 15 bullets or magazine able to be converted to one holding more than 15 bullets (a description which could apply to nearly all magazines), certainly to bequeath but possibly even to own. The magazines, themselves, can be grandfathered in, but the guns which hold them cannot.
Colorado, with both a western and an outdoor history and mindset, has traditionally been very freedom-oriented, including being a very gun-friendly state. Huge numbers of people called, tweeted or emailed the governor’s office to voice their concerns about the bills, and organizations such as Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the company Magpul (which will now leave the state due in large part to the magazine ban’s legal ambiguities) have been very active in opposing the legislation.
Among other actions, the organizations have also been in contact with Hickenlooper directly. Magpul sent a detailed analysis to the Governor explaining the “structural flaws” of the legislation and exactly how extreme it was and urging him to veto it.
Colorado’s Sheriffs, too, unanimously opposed the gun bills, and have now, along with the Independence Institute and other organizations, mounted a lawsuit against them. People are also attempting to create recall petitions against some Democrat lawmakers. On Friday, for instance, there is a meeting to organize a recall petition against Evie Hudak (SD19), who drew nationwide criticism for belittling a rape victim, at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center at 7pm.
Some have connected Hickenlooper’s support for the gun control legislation to statements he made in his gubernatorial campaign in which he not only said that there is “backwards thinking” in rural Western areas, but also compared residents of those areas to the people who killed Matthew Shepard in 1998. Shepard was a young gay man who was tortured to death for his homosexuality in Wyoming. This legislation targets many of the same people for whom his statement showed complete and utter disdain. In addition, he himself grew up in Pennsylvania and only moved to Colorado after college.
Hickenlooper has said that he does not expect his signing of this legislation to affect his reelection campaign, but his 2010 gubernatorial run was largely successful due to problems on the Republican side. Dan Maes had been largely unvetted in the primary and his general election bid was riddled with problems. Tom Tancredo, who had lost the primary to Maes, quickly became the more viable candidate running with the American Constitution Party. When Maes refused to drop out, despite many requests, the vote was split and Hickenlooper won. With a weak initial election, such widely opposed legislation will likely have some impact.
While some have alleged that Hickenlooper is caving due to outside pressure, the Governor assures the population that this was his own choice. Federal gun control legislation is currently falling flat, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s magazine ban has proven a failure. The UN is drafting an “Arms Trafficking Treaty,” but that is unlikely to be ratified by the US Congress.