Senate Republicans planning filibuster on gun control debate

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DENVER — Interested people across Colorado and around the country will be focused on the state Senate Friday, when lawmakers are set to debate seven Democratic gun control proposals, four of which have already passed the House.

A word of advice: get comfortable.

Senate Republicans are planning a Rand Paul-esque filibuster on the legislation that could push the floor debate on the seven bills, which begins Friday at 9 a.m., into Saturday and possibly even Sunday.

It’s a high-stakes battle for many individual lawmakers, facing intense pressure from constituents in divided districts, and for advocates on both sides of this national debate over guns.

What happens in Colorado, a western, politically moderate state that’s been affected by two major mass shootings at Columbine in 1999 and in Aurora last July, has the potential to re-shape the national narrative about whether the country is ready for tighter gun control laws in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn. shooting.

Ultimately, whenever the final Senate votes are taken, it’s likely that anywhere between four and seven measures are approved.

There are 20 Democrats in the 35-member state Senate. With 18 votes needed to pass any bill, no votes from just three Democratic senators would kill any of these bills.

Right now, two Democrats are planning to vote against three of them.

Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, and Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, both oppose House Bill 1224, a ban on high-capacity magazines; House Bill 1226, a ban on concealed weapons on college campuses; and Senate Bill 196, a proposal to make assault weapons manufacturers and retailers liable for any crimes.

So which Democratic lawmaker could cast that third and decisive no vote?

Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, has yet to commit to any bill other than House Bill 1229, which mandates universal background checks on all gun sales.

Kerr, who has a tough reelection fight in a competitive district next year, is being lobbied hard by both sides.

Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, is also uncommitted.

During a press conference Thursday, Senate President John Morse, who is sponsoring the assault weapons liability measure, told reporters he expects the Senate will pass “a comprehensive package” of gun control bills, but stopped short of guaranteeing that all seven measures will get through.

Thursday afternoon, the Denver Post editorial board published an editorial in support of five of the seven bills: the Post opposes House Bill 1226, the concealed weapons campus ban, and Morse’s Assault Weapons Responsibility Act, which, the editorial board writes, “flies in the face of logic and federal law.

“It’s a convoluted effort to skirt a federal ban on lawsuits against gun makers and sellers.”

Controversial bills to be heard last

Senate Democrats have scheduled the seven bills to be heard in an order that appears to put the more controversial — and most imperiled — bills last.

The first bill scheduled to be heard is Senate Bill 197, which seeks to prevent people convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms.

The strategy: if Republicans want to talk a bill to death, let them do it to a bill that, Democrats believe, will hurt lawmakers who oppose it.

Second on the calendar is Senate Bill 195, perhaps the least controversial of the seven, which closes a loophole that currently allows people to obtain concealed weapons permits by completing a course online.

The third bill to be heard is House Bill 1229, which will require background checks on all sales, followed by a companion measure, House Bill 1228, which will make gun buyers pay a small fee to cover the cost of CBI background checks.

House Bill 1224, the proposed ban on high-capacity magazines, is set to be heard fifth; Senate Bill 196, the controversial Assault Weapons Responsibility Act is scheduled after that; and House Bill 1226, which would ban concealed weapons on college campuses, is the final of the seven gun control measures on the calendar.

Senate Democrats caution that the calendar is subject to last-minute changes.