There are many reasons Colorado is an appealing place to live. This week many of us who live in a state known for hunting and a preference for local rule became even prouder to call Colorado home. Although I was raised in Chicago, a city sadly becoming a legend all its own for youth gun violence, Colorado tragically has suffered more than its fair share of gun-related mass shootings. Most recently in Aurora, 12 Coloradans were killed in a midnight movie shooting that stunned the nation. As difficult as it is to believe, in part because of the other shootings that happened next, including one in Connecticut, this tragedy took place less than a year ago in our community in July 2012.
Domestic violence and random terrorism perpetrated by people in our communities who we might be able to stop before they commit these crimes are tough subjects. Yet yesterday on March 8, the Democrat-controlled Senate of Colorado faced these unsavory issues and passed a package of bills that would strengthen gun control laws in our state. Among these is Senate Bill 197, prohibiting a person who has been convicted of domestic violence or is the subject of a restraining order from possessing a firearm.
Matt Ferner of the Huffington Post reported on March 4:
“After hours of emotional testimony, The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 197 on a party line 3-2 vote. SB-197 was the first bill to pass out of seven that are currently being heard and debated in the state legislature today. Read the full text of SB-197 here.”
It is noteworthy that the work at our State Capitol this past week made it into print in the New York Times, clear on the other side of the United States. In Jack Healy’s article today titled, “Colorado Senate Advances Bills on New Gun Control Measures,” Healy points out one person who was not spending time with the state legislators this week:
“Among those absent from the drama inside the State Capitol on Friday was Dave Hoover, a police sergeant whose nephew, A. J. Boik, was among the 12 people killed in Aurora. Since the shooting, Mr. Hoover has spoken out for new gun laws.”
On Saturday morning, Healy reports that Hoover said his feelings were bittersweet.
“You have to realize that none of this will ever bring back our family,” Mr. Hoover said. “We may have some responsible gun laws in our state now, but that doesn’t change what our family goes through every day. It’s good to see some change, and it’s good to see some people paying attention. It’s not going do us any good. We’ve already gone through so much.”
Interestingly, there are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who do not dismiss the need for solutions that would result in reduced violence in our state. In powerful, emotional testimony yesterday, as reported also today by Tim Hoover of the Denver Post:
“Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, told a gripping story about a family who lived on his block when he was a child where terrible domestic abuse took place. Only later in the story did he reveal that the family was his.
“‘Do you know what it's like to watch your 10-year-old brother get beat by a screwdriver? I do,’ Cadman said. ‘Do you know what it's like to hear your mom scream from outside your house because she's naked? I do.’”
“If Democrats really wanted to do something about domestic violence, Cadman said, they should lay the bill over until Monday. Then Republicans could work with them on it, he said.”
The voices of all Coloradans are needed now so the early success with SB197 can be built upon. In 2011, 13 Coloradans died from gun violence at the hands of a domestic violence offender who was prohibited from possessing a gun, according to the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Here are a few startling facts:
- A 2006 report by the Metro Denver Fatality Review Committee of 90 domestic violence homicide cases, which resulted in 147 fatalities between 1996 and 2004, found that 47 of the primary victims killed, were killed by an offender prohibited under the law from purchasing or possessing firearms. The majority of domestic violence homicides and suicides in Colorado have been, and continue to be, committed by firearms.
- Federal laws prohibiting the possession of firearms by persons subject to certain protection orders or convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence or felonies are rarely enforced in Colorado. These laws are not effective in addressing the possession of firearms by abusers in Colorado without complementary and implementing legislation from this state, leaving women, children and others at risk of severe abuse or death.
- Studies reveal that the presence of firearms significantly increases the lethality of domestic violence incidents. According to one of these studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.
It is true that this package of stronger gun laws may not deter criminals who are determined and intent on causing harm to innocents. But imagine if with the passage of these reasonable measures, we could as a community come together to prevent just one more woman or child from being shot. Imagine if with this conversation, as challenging as it is to have, our state sets an important example for other states, like Colorado, that pride themselves on their independence from Washington bureaucrats. This example is that Americans can still come together and pass local legislation that, yes, may or may not have desired outcomes, but it was certainly worth enacting.