Legislators respond to passage of new gun bills

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DENVER — After another protracted debate Monday, the Colorado House of Representatives gave final passage to a slate of Democratic gun restriction bills that now head to the state Senate.

The two most controversial measures have already cleared the House.

House Bill 1224, which will ban high-capacity magazines of 15 rounds or more, passed the House on a 34-31 final vote, with three Democrats joining the Republican minority in opposition.

Those Democrats were Rep. Leroy Garcia of Pueblo, Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton, and Rep. Ed Vigil of San Luis.

“Guns are a part of our heritage in the west and I can’t turn my back on that,” Vigil said, as several Republicans and a few Democrats stood in the chamber in an unusual show of deference.

Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who sponsored the measure, also brought Democrats to their feet as she offered a closing argument in favor of her bill.

“This bill is not about a hunch,” Fields said, answering Minority Leader Mark Waller’s criticism that no data supports the idea that banning high-capacity magazines will prevent mass shootings.

“This is not about feeling good. This is about saving lives.”

Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, echoed Fields and said that the magazine ban is part of a comprehensive legislative approach to reducing gun violence that also includes improving mental health services in the state.

Republicans argued agains the bill at length, challenging the “inconsistency” of allowing a Boulder manufacturer to continue to make high-capacity magazines that would be illegal in the state and arguing that the ban will impact law-abiding gun owners disproportionately.

“Criminals don’t follow the law,” said Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita. “The criminals in Colorado are laughing right now.”

The House also passed Fields’s second measure, House Bill 1229, which will require universal background checks on all gun purchases, including private sales.

It passed 36-29, with Vigil the only Democrat voting with Republicans against the bill.

“Convicted felons know if they need a gun, just go on the Internet,” Fields said.

Fields pointed to public polling showing that nearly 80 percent of Coloradans support universal background checks.

Despite such polling, Republicans were steadfast in their opposition to the proposal, arguing that it impedes citizens’ Second Amendment rights.