Colorado Gun Control: Why Governor Hickenlooper Shouldn't Sign It Into Law


It is impossible to look at the recent cases of mass-shootings around the country and not want to support measures to end such unspeakable violence. Living in Colorado, a state where two such tragedies occurred (Columbine High School and the Aurora movie theater), it was difficult to stomach the action as it unfolded live on local news stations. But, even though the list of mass shootings is long and fresh in our collective minds, such tragedies should not lead to bad legislation written without understanding the potential consequences for law-abiding citizens.

In Colorado, controversial gun control measures passed by the state's General Assembly Governor, sit on Governor John Hickenlooper's desk waiting to be signed. One of the most controversial bills limits the number of rounds in high capacity magazines to 15. The other bills deal with background checks for perspective gun buyers.

Supporters of the magazine ban say that because it will require shooters to slow down to reload, fewer lives may be lost in mass shootings. However, even the bills sponsor does not know how the broadly written legislation may be enforced.

Critics of the "magban" legislation cite problems with the bill, including the potential for making all gun magazines illegal. The language of the bill can be narrowly interpreted to outlaw all magazines as extensions can be added to most magazines, making such items illegal. County sheriffs have said they will not enforce the measures and may not be required to enforce the legislation. A local manufacturer of gun magazines, Magpul, has promised to leave the state taking with it over 600 jobs. The suppliers of Magpul have also said they would have to leave should the legislation pass. In a state still struggling to recover from the recession, the response to a potential loss of jobs has been bitter. 

The other legislation for universal background checks makes a person who transfers a firearm to an individual "liable for any civil damages caused by that individual's subsequent use of a firearm." An example of a consequence of this legislation would be if a husband owns a gun, has gone through a background check but is out of his home when his wife uses the gun on an intruder the husband may get in trouble for the actions of the wife. The background check applies per gun, not per person. In a state with a strong tradition and history of recreational gun use this legislation was met with great resistance. 

In spite of the fact that two mass shootings have occurred within the state, these gun control measures are not popular in recent polling. Efforts to recall legislators who have supported these gun control measures have already begun and petitions for ballot measures have been filed. Vigorous debate has happened both inside the statehouse and out; but the constant question is whether or not these measures will be effective in their target, or will cause law-abiding citizens, who obtained firearms legally to no longer be compliant with the law. 

Governor Hickenlooper was correct when he said, "gun control legislation will not stop bad people from doing bad things." Adam Lanza did the unspeakable when he went to Sandy Hook Elementary and murdered children. It has recently come out that he also had years of research completed before he set off on his killing spree. James Holmes had also taken his time to plan his massacre at the Aurora movie theater. Unless governors in neighboring states sign similar legislation there is little to prevent a person so determined from going to Kansas, Nebraska or Wyoming where high capacity magazines are still legal.