DENVER (AP) – Kicking off a long, emotional debate about guns, Colorado lawmakers clashed Friday over setting limits on the size of ammunition magazines, a proposal in a package of Democratic bills responding to mass shootings at an Aurora movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school.
Republicans are expected to put up a strong resistance to the proposals in a debate in the House that could last all day and possibly into early Saturday.
“You’re going to hear stuff today that you like, and you’re going to hear stuff today that you don’t like,” said Rep. Mark Waller, the Republican House leader, joining Democratic Speaker Mark Ferrandino in calling for civility during the debate.
Waller then challenged Democrats to explain how setting limits on large-capacity ammunition magazines would improve public safety. It’s the first of four proposals expected to be debated and given an initial vote Friday.
“Let’s talk about public safety, because I have a report here that shows that over the course of the last four or five years we’ve had 34 mass shootings using high-capacity magazines,” said Democratic Rep. Rhonda Fields, the sponsor of the bill and representative of the district where the theater shooting happened. Fields went on to list recent mass shootings and the number of people killed, including the shootings in Aurora and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
“When I think about those babies it just makes me want to cry,” Fields said.
Her proposal would limit large-capacity magazines to 15 rounds for all firearms and eight rounds for shotguns.
Democrats also are proposing to expand background checks to include firearm purchases from websites and private sellers.
Other proposals would ban concealed firearms on college campuses and require that gun buyers pay for their own background checks.
The Senate will consider the bills next, if they pass the House.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper favors expanded background checks and indicated Thursday that he could support a potential compromise on magazine sizes, if the restriction was between 15 and 20 rounds. He also said he thinks gun purchasers should pay for their background checks, but he had not made up his mind yet about the ban on concealed firearms on colleges.
Republicans argued that what Democrats are proposing won’t improve public safety.
“We are not safer by limiting the constitutional rights of law-abiding firearm owners,” said Republican Rep. Frank McNulty.
Democrats said legislators need to take steps to prevent more shootings.
“This is about kids who have been shot, over and over and over again,” said Democratic Rep. Crisanta Duran said. “I am tired of seeing kids die, year after year, after year, after year.”
By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press
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