DENVER (CBS4) – Rep. Diana DeGette is pushing for new legislation banning high-capacity magazines. The Democrat representing Colorado met with supporters of gun control on Thursday before some lawmakers return to Washington DC ahead of the August recess ending next week.
“It’s going to take a lot of courage for all of our representative officials to stand up the gun lobby,” said Jennifer Douglas, a former teacher at Columbine High School. “We cannot sit ideally by why people in our country are being impacted by gun violence and being targeted by hate crimes.”
Douglas was one of many speakers at a round table discussion the congresswoman organized at her Denver office. Douglas graduated from Columbine High School in 1990 and then went abroad but returned just a month before the shooting in 1999 to become a permanent substitute teacher.
“We heard gunfire, which we didn’t know was gunfire,” she remembered the day of the shooting. “I picked up the phone to call 911 and couldn’t get through because there were so many lines trying to go out.”
Twenty years after the shooting, she has only now decided to come forward and share her experience as an advocate for gun control. In that time, she went on to become a principal and raised her own children. No longer working full time, she has become an education consultant.
“I ended up being barricaded in that office with six or seven teachers and a couple students for about four hours before a SWAT team escorted us out.”
DeGette introduced legislation earlier this year to reinstate a nationwide ban on high-capacity gun magazines. A similar law is already in place at the state level. The House Judiciary committee is preparing to take up DeGette’s bill as part of a series of gun-safety related bills in the wake of recent mass shootings across the nation.
“It’s something very just important to me, very near and dear to my heart,” Douglas told CBS4 after the roundtable. “I feel like I got to do something.”
But gun rights advocates say this bill will not protect the public and instead will only punish law-abiding gun owners.
“DeGette’s federal ban would have the exact same effect on crime and mass shootings as Colorado’s ban and as the ten year federal ban, zero effect, no effect,” said Dudley Brown with Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
He told CBS4 over the phone he did not believe it was fair for that classification of magazines to be available only to law enforcement and the military but not to citizens looking to protect themselves.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is pushing a case against the current ban in Colorado arguing that this type of legislation does not help reduce shootings. Brown also pointed to the previous assault weapons ban between 1994 and 2004 that he says did not have an effect on shootings.
Gun control advocates dispute that fact and point to separate studies showing a difference during that 10-year range.
“The data just doesn’t prove that, in fact it proves that Diana DeGette is wrong,” Brown said. “Diana DeGette is using a crisis to advance her political agenda, which is ban as many guns as you can.”
Supporters gathering at DeGette’s office stand by the approach and went on to say the magazines they hope to ban are not typically used by hunters or for sport. They argue gun owners should not have access to such a deadly device when it could make it harder for a future shooter to use it for killing innocent lives.
“I don’t want to be just a bystander, I think we all have to get involved in making changes,” Douglas said. “How long will it take before everyone has some personal direct connection to gun violence before we’re willing to be courageous and make changes?”