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Gun Control, Violence Dominating Colorado Debate

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Colorado State Capitol (credit: Jason Hussong)

Colorado State Capitol (credit: Jason Hussong)

DENVER (AP) – Guns continue to dominate political debate in Colorado.

The Colorado Senate planned to debate a measure Wednesday to encourage more businesses to allow patrons to carry concealed weapons. The Republican measure would say businesses such as shopping malls or movie theaters would have to provide armed security if patrons can’t carry guns.

Also Wednesday, a Republican senator proposed a measure to allow more school employees to carry concealed weapons. The measure being introduced is another attempt to add security at public schools. A Democratic committee rejected a related proposal earlier this week.

The legislative action on guns came as Congress began its first gun control hearing since 20 elementary school children were shot to death in Newtown, Conn., late last year.

A look at the gun control developments Wednesday in Colorado:

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Republican Sen. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs was hoping to persuade a skeptical Democratic committee to sign off on a plan that could expand concealed weapons in businesses. Lambert’s proposal would require businesses that don’t allow patrons to carry concealed weapons to provide their own armed security.

Lambert said when his bill was introduced that his proposal could make places like shopping malls safer.

“If a venue decides not to allow people to carry, that’s within their rights. But then I think they should pick up the responsibility of protecting their customers,” said Lambert, one of 11 Senate Republicans and seven House Republicans to sponsor the measure.

Lambert’s measure faced likely defeat, though. The Senate committee hearing the guns-in-businesses proposal rejected another proposal earlier this week to allow school to permit employees to carry concealed weapons.

Some Democrats worry that expanding the list of places where concealed weapons are permitted won’t make people safer. Police, they argue, may not immediately know who the “good guys” are. Those skeptics have pointed out that accused Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes was at first confused for an officer when authorities first arrived to the July shooting massacre. Democrats also say gun accidents would increase.

Senate President John Morse, a Democrat and former police chief, has said shootings would only increase if more people carried guns.

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Some Republicans aren’t giving up on the idea of more armed teachers in schools.

Republican Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray was preparing to introduce as bill Wednesday to expand security-officer training available to classroom teachers. His proposal could lead to more teachers having state authorization to carry concealed weapons even on state property.

Brophy said Wednesday his bill would address the school-safety piece that was rejected once. He wasn’t optimistic that his version would fare any better in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, though.

“I’m just trying to think of ways to make our kids safer at schools,” Brophy said. “But to me, it’s obvious that the Democrats here have an extreme anti-gun agenda.”

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Colorado’s top-ranked Democrat – Gov. John Hickenlooper – is taking on that perception next week when he’s scheduled to meet with the head of the National Rifle Association. David A. Keene was headed to Denver for a private meeting with Hickenlooper on Feb. 7.

Colorado’s governor has called for expanded background checks on gun purchases. He asked the Legislature to pass such a bill in his annual State of State address earlier this year.

“”Let’s examine our laws and make the changes needed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Hickenlooper said.

Gun-rights activists say that expanding background checks to private purchases is unworkable and unlikely to keep guns from dangerous people.

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Colorado’s county sheriffs have asked lawmakers to back off any proposals this year to change current gun law.

In an official position paper, the County Sheriffs of Colorado stated that they oppose an assault-weapons ban and a ban on bulk purchases of ammunition.

“Gun control does not equate to lower crime rates, which is really what we strive for,” the sheriffs wrote.

The sheriffs asked lawmakers “not to make decisions during this grieving period.”

- By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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