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The Difference A Year Can Make

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Visitors pray together around a cross erected at a memorial setup across the street from the Century 16 movie theatre on July 28, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Visitors pray together around a cross erected at a memorial setup across the street from the Century 16 movie theatre on July 28, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Saturday marks the one year anniversary of one of the darkest days in recent Colorado history. We are hearing the stories about the heroes from that fateful night in Aurora and how victims and the community are healing and moving forward. Those stories are certainly the most appropriate subject for our attention.

But after we have paid the right attention to the stories that truly matter most, it will behoove us to take stock and see how the events one year ago in Aurora have changed Colorado politics, possibly for a generation or more.

Before July 20th, 2012, many figured that civil unions and illegal immigration would vie for the most press and activity in the 2013 legislative session. But the events in Aurora quickly launched gun control issues to become a major focus of the legislative session.

That part of the equation is a fairly simple one to figure. However, the affect of that debate is what will continue to change and shape Colorado politics for years.

On Thursday, Governor Hickenlooper set the recall election date for two state lawmakers based purely on how the gun control legislation was handled this spring. Recall elections are very rare for state lawmakers. Throughout the history of our country, only five have taken place, and now Colorado may host two on one day. How those recall elections go may set up how gun control is debated not only in Colorado, but throughout the country.

Also, the gun control debate helped to crystalize the argument from many conservative rural voters that Colorado’s state government no longer truly represents their points of view. Along with inspiring a secession movement from the state, gun control issues have become a rallying cry for many in the Republican Party.

These are not changes that simply go away with the passage of a new law. These are the kinds of changes that can change the face of the Colorado political scene for many years.

Gun issues are not the only way July 20th, 2012 changed Colorado politics. While Nathan Dunlap may have been the face of the Death Penalty debate this spring, he will be quickly replaced in that conversation once the gunman from Aurora is on trial.

All of the elements of the capital punishment debate will be front and center during the trial, and as we have already seen, that issue has Coloradans split right down the middle.

Finally, I think the most underrated change to Colorado politics that we will see is in the matter of mental health. While gun issues have taken center stage since the spring, the facets of the mental health debate should garner much more attention during the trial.

When the trial uncovers how therapists and psychiatrists define patients with dangerous traits, more people will wonder out loud what we are doing to make sure the next person who needs to treatment isn’t somewhere booby trapping an apartment with bombs.

Unforeseen events have changed the course of politics throughout history. But in Colorado, we have not seen an event like what happened on July 20th, 2012 change the face of politics in more than a generation.

It’s only been one year, and we have already seen enough changes in Colorado politics to fill a busy political decade. It is clear we have only seen the tip of the iceberg of the affects of this event on our state.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces and hosts the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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