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Another gun battle took center stage at the Capitol on Feb. 3, as a Senate committee rejected a Republican effort to undo a key Democrat-backed gun measure from last year.
Testimony on a bill that sought to repeal a law that requires background checks on all gun sales and transfers in the state lasted more than six hours before the Senate's State, Veteran's and Military Affairs Committee killed the measure. The bill failed following a 3-2 party-line vote.
Democrats and other supporters of universal background checks say they are working and that the law has made it more difficult for guns to get into the wrong hands. But Sen. George Rivera, R-Pueblo, the repeal bill's sponsor, argued that the new law would have done nothing to prevent recent mass shootings, such as the ones that occurred in 2012 inside an Aurora theater and at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"If people intend on doing something evil, they're going to do it," Rivera said. "That's just a fact."
Last year, Democrats succeeded in passing bills that expanded gun background checks, and put in place a requirement that high-capacity ammunition magazines be limited to 15 rounds. Republicans are also trying to repeal the latter measure.
There was fallout as a result of those efforts as three Democratic senators either lost their seats or resigned as a result of gun vote-motivated recall elections. Rivera won his Senate seat last fall in a recall election over former Democratic Sen. Angela Giron, making him a rare Republican to represent Pueblo in the Senate.
"My constituents in Pueblo sent me here to give a message: They don't like the gun laws," Rivera said.
Rivera told the committee that he was not against background checks. His bill would have required only licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks, which had already been a part of state law prior to last year's measure being enacted. Rivera's bill would have done away with the new requirement that background checks be conducted for private and online sales, and it would have gotten rid of the fees that individuals are required to pay for their background checks.
Several supporters of Rivera's bill said that the new requirements are burdensome to law-abiding citizens.
"As long as Democrats are in office they are going to be going after our Second Amendment Rights," said Joe Neville of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
But supporters of the new background checks pointed to results. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation says that 104 people who tried buying guns last year failed background checks because they had criminal records. That's a testament to the background checks law expansion, supporters said. And if even one of those background checks stops just one criminal from getting their hands on a gun, the law is worth it, they said.
"The value of one life is worth the inconvenience of the others," said Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver.
Dave Hoover, a longtime police officer whose nephew, A.J. Boik, was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, was one of several people to speak in opposition of Rivera's repeal effort. Hoover said that Coloradans should do "anything we can do to prevent gun violence" and that he doesn't want "anybody else to get that phone call," which informed him that his nephew had been shot.
"It's about accountability," Hoover said. "It's about holding gun holders responsible for what they do when they get rid of their firearms."
Though emotional at times, the hearing lacked the intensity of last year's gun bill committee hearings. In fact, Rivera and other Republican senators thanked Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Commerce City, the committee chairman, for his handling of the hearing.
Still, Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, a committee member, said that Democrats who pushed for the gun laws still aren't paying attention to voters who didn't appreciate their efforts last year.
"You didn't listen close enough because there are three senators who aren't here," Harvey said.
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