DENVER — Gun control became one of the main topics among the state’s leading lawmakers at legislative preview meeting with reporters at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Friday afternoon.
In the wake of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, and the Aurora theater shooting in July, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and other top lawmakers said they were devastated when they heard the news, and Democratic leaders said the Legislature must address gun control. Republican leaders were more reserved on the topic. The group spoke at the 15th annual Colorado Press Association pre-legislative forum talked about gun control legislation and other statewide issues in a preview of the 2013 legislative session.
The economy, legalized marijuana, transportation, the budget, oil and gas, education funding and health care took a backseat to the mass killings in Connecticut, where 20 children and seven adults were gunned down by a 20-year-old man.
“I can’t put into words how impossible it seems to me that this could happen again so suddenly, so rapidly. It’s disconcerting,” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper said he hasn’t seen a bill on gun control yet, but he indicated the issue would be discussed.
“I can guarantee you’re going to see ideas on both sides,” Hickenlooper said.
A solemn Hickenlooper said he’s familiar with Newtown.
“I know Newtown, Conn. I know Dan Malloy, the governor there. He’s a friend of mine,” Hickenlooper said. “When he was a mayor before he became governor, and I was in the restaurant business, we met half a dozen times. We are friends of long standing, and I immediately reached out to him and said whatever we can do ... I will drop everything.”
Senate-elect president John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, a former police chief in Fountain, said gun control is a huge issue.
“We have to figure out ways to balance people’s lawful rights to own guns and public safety,” Morse said. “What we saw in Aurora, I don’t yet know enough of the facts in Connecticut. When you’ve got an assault weapon where every time you pull a trigger a bullet comes out of that gun, and you can attach 100-round clips to it. That means that I can crank off 100 rounds before I have to take a break to reload, and you can try to get that gun away from me. We don’t need those weapons in the city streets where they can be used to do exactly what just happened in Aurora. It is time to have this conversation, and I don’t think we’ll have much choice to think about, ‘Is there a way for us to ban assault weapons, and should we do so?’ ”
Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, said the conversation regarding gun control is coming, and there are bills coming.
“The real bottom line here is there’s 300 million people in this country, and 7 billion around the world,” Cadman said. “Someone, somewhere is trying to do harm to somebody at any give day, and all the laws in the world aren’t going to stop it. Criminals will still do criminal acts. That’s what makes them criminals.”