Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, today signed the nation's second package of gun reform legislation since the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Democrats in the legislature started with seven bills. The three* signed by Hickenlooper require universal background checks, payment of the $10 cost by the person being checked instead of by the state, and a limit of 15 rounds on ammunition magazines.
The limit on magazines might carry the greatest political risk for Hickenlooper. An ammunitions manufacturer, Magpul, says it is now making plans to leave the state. Hickenlooper seems ready to bear that cost, whatever it is. From the Denver Post:
"Large magazines have the potential to turn killers into killing machines," said Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown.
"This law won't stop bad people from doing bad things. But it does open the possibility that a person determined to kill people might be slowed down even for an instant. That instant might mean the difference between life and death for some people."
Governor Hickenlooper also expressed sorrow today for the state's director of corrections, Tom Clements, who was killed on Tuesday night at his home. Someone knocked on the door and shot Clements when he answered. Police are still searching for the suspect.
Meanwhile, Colorado Republicans marked the occasion of Hickenlooper signing the gun bills by hanging in the Senate minority office a modified New York state flag bearing an image of Michael Bloomberg's face and Hickenlooper's, and the words "New Flag of Colorado." Their contention is that Mayor Bloomberg's campaigning for gun reform has skewed the politics in Colorado.
As we have seen in New York, the first state to pass gun reform, some folks are already saying they will neither obey nor enforce the law. Republican State Senator Greg Brophy announced during debate that he intends to break the limit on magazines. Weld County Sheriff John Cooke says he won't enforce the new laws, except in the instance that someone violates the 15-round limit while committing a crime. As the local press explains, under Colorado law, sheriffs have the right to decide which statutes they will enforce. Again from the Post:
"Chiefs and sheriffs all took an oath to uphold the laws of the state," said Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. "However, since Colorado is a local-control state, chiefs and sheriffs should work with local communities and supervisors to determine which laws to prioritize for enforcement."
The recourse for Colorado citizens is to ask the courts to compel a sheriff to enforce the laws, or to vote the sheriff out of office.
*Of the seven bills introduced by Democrats in Colorado, two were pulled by their sponsors. One of the spiked bills would have made it possible to sue gun manufacturers in certain cases. The other would have banned the carrying of concealed weapons on campus. That leaves two more bills, both of which have passed the Senate and are now stuck in the House judiciary committee. One would have required anyone with a domestic violence conviction or order of protection against them to surrender their weapons. The other would end the practice of allowing gun owners to get certified for concealed carry permits online.