DENVER (AP) – Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper urged lawmakers to debate gun control in the aftermath of mass shootings in Aurora and Connecticut, saying Thursday that “our democracy demands this type of debate.”
In a speech that recalled the destructive summer wildfires and shootings, Hickenlooper called for a moment of silence for the “days we will never forget.”
“Belief in a better tomorrow is the story of the West. This is our history,” Hickenlooper said in prepared remarks for his third State of the State address to outline legislative priorities.
Watch Gov. Hickenlooper’s discussion on the issues after the State of the State speech below.
Hickenlooper called for more background checks in cases where they don’t currently exist, like when someone buys a gun from a seller on Craigslist.
“Let’s examine our laws and make the changes needed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” he said. Some Democrats have indicated they will introduce a ban on assault weapons, but Hickenlooper did not mention that proposal in his speech. He said “it’s not enough to prevent dangerous people from getting weapons.”
“We have to do a better job of identifying and helping people who are a threat to themselves and others. That is why we are requesting your support for a comprehensive overhaul of our state’s mental health system,” he said. Last month, he called for an expansion of services for the mentally ill.
Hickenlooper also renewed a call for the passage of civil unions for same-sex couples — legislation that House Republicans blocked last session when they controlled the chamber. With Democrats controlling both chambers now, Hickenlooper said it’s time to pass the legislation.
“This year, let’s do it. Let’s pass civil unions!” he said.
He also implored lawmakers to pass legislation lowering tuition for illegal immigrants who graduate from Colorado high schools. The students currently pay out-of-state rates much higher than legal state residents. The legislation also failed last year.
“Let’s find an equitable and fair way for undocumented kids — kids who have grown up here and done well in school — to pursue a higher education,” he said.
This is the first time in Hickenlooper’s term that his party controls both chambers, which will give Democrats an advantage in passing legislation they want.
Watch the Republican discussion of the issues after the State of the State speech below.
Hickenlooper also highlighted economic accomplishments of the last year and urged lawmakers to work on expanding Medicaid services. He said expanding Medicaid coverage to about 160,000 adults with low incomes can be done by finding savings in the program. Republicans are skeptical of that claim.
Hickenlooper also touched on lighter topics, like the Denver Broncos, who have playoff game coming up Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens.
“This might be the appropriate time to note that the road to the Super Bowl goes right through Denver,” he said.
Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates, and Aurora Fire Chief Mike Garcia were among the guests invited for the speech. The theater shootings in the city this summer left 12 people dead and 70 injured.
Colorado also experienced one of the worst wildfire seasons in state history. Fires near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs destroyed hundreds of homes.
Lawmakers began the year’s 120-day session on Wednesday, with party leaders delivering speeches outlining their priorities.
By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press
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