DENVER — Republican state Sen. Bernie Herpin raised the ire of an Aurora theater shooting victim’s father when he claimed that it might have been “a good thing” that gunman James Holmes had a 100-round magazine when he opened fire and, ultimately, killed 12 people.
Herpin, who was elected last September to replace former Senate President John Morse in a recall election over the Democratic gun control measures, made the comments during a hearing for legislation that would overturn the new ban on magazines of 15-rounds or more.
Democrats in the House already voted down a proposal to repeal that law on Monday; Herpin’s separate bill, basically the exact same proposal, was being heard Wednesday by a Senate committee, also certain to vote the measure down.
Republicans, hoping to sustain the outrage of gun owners that the legislation sparked a year ago as they head into election season, have made a point of pushing numerous bills this year aimed mostly at repealing those new laws.
With Democrats still in control of both the House and Senate, Republicans did so mostly for political purposes, knowing the bills themselves would be voted down.
But Herpin’s gaffe, not to mention the increasingly paltry turnout at the Capitol from aggrieved gun owners — on Tuesday, three times more gun control advocates than gun owners showed up to testify on a proposal to allow concealed carry in schools — seems to illustrate that the strategy of highlighting gun-related issues may be backfiring for Republicans.
On top of three days spent watching Democrats demonstrate more public support against the GOP-sponsored proposals, Wednesday’s hearing will be mostly marked by a lawmaker’s comment that was, at best, insensitive.
Herpin’s gaffe occurred when he was questioned by a Democratic senator on the committee. Click the “play” button below to hear his testimony Wednesday.
“My understanding is that James Holmes bought his 100-round capacity magazine legally,” said Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver. “So in fact, this law would have stopped James Holmes from purchasing a 100-round magazine.
“I was wondering if you agree with me.”
“Perhaps, James Holmes would not have been able to purchase a 100-round magazine,” Herpin responded.
“As it turned out, that was maybe a good thing that he had a 100-round magazine, because it jammed. If he had four, five, six 15-round magazines, there’s no telling how much damage he could have done until a good guy with a gun showed up.”
Herpin’s was trying to say that larger magazines are less reliable, more prone to jamming up.
But Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was among those killed in the Aurora theater shooting, took umbrage and made his outrage known when he went to the table to testify, doing so at the Capitol for a third straight day.
“I’ve had a lot of thoughts since July 20, 2012, but never once did I think anyone was better off because the shooter brought a hundred round drum into that theater,” Sullivan said. “Alex never had a chance. He was watching a movie one second and the next he was dead. The fact is, if the shooter had to change his magazine that would have been a chance for Alex to survive.”
Sullivan went further after he addressed lawmakers, telling FOX31 Denver that he found Herpin’s comments offensive.
“The lack of empathy and compassion is shocking,” he said. “Not just to me and my family, but to all of the families who have lost loved ones to gun violence and to all the people of Colorado. But this is what he truly believes.
“And to think this is the person who they brought in to replace John Morse.”
While Sullivan steamed, Democratic staffers streamed out of the hearing room in disbelief.
“Thanks for giving us back your seat,” one of them said, alluding to Herpin being up for reelection this fall.