DENVER – Almost unnoticed, something remarkable happened in Colorado over the last month: The common sense gun safety regulations passed in the wake of the Aurora and Newtown massacres survived despite attempts to overturn them. Once again, Colorado’s legislature has achieved what Congress could not. The gun safety laws made in Colorado have stayed in Colorado.
There’s a very simple reason why. A coalition of determined parents, students, families, safety-minded gun-owners, grassroots groups such as Colorado Ceasefire and survivors of gun violence including the massacres in Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown all made their voices heard at the state Capitol. This year, supporters of the important protections enacted in 2013 outnumbered the opponents. In the end, ten bills that either attempted to roll back regulations passed last year or to weaken Colorado’s existing laws were defeated.
Colorado Ceasefire Board Member Tom Mauser lost his son Daniel at Columbine and has literally been wearing Daniel’s shoes to lobby for gun safety legislation ever since. As he puts it, the reason Coloradans remained steadfast is simple.
“The public supports gun safety and didn’t want to see these laws overturned. So much of what they heard during last year’s hearings about these bills was flat wrong, and it was a good opportunity for us to tell the truth. We will continue to do that and let citizens know which leaders are fully dedicated to community safety.”
The genesis of the Colorado laws began shortly after the Aurora Theater massacre in the summer of 2012. Colorado Ceasefire, which has been active since 2000, began meeting with allies, including public safety organizations and grassroots groups in the fall of 2012 to hammer out a plank of legislative proposals. Our last meeting was on December 14, 2012, when we made our final decisions about legislative proposals while reeling from the news of the horrific mass murders in Newtown, Connecticut.
The Newtown shootings strengthened the resolve of advocates, victim families, and lawmakers here in Colorado to stop the bloodshed. The sponsor of the background check bill, Representative Rhonda Fields, lost her own son Javad Marshall Fields and his fiancée Vivian Wolfe to gun violence.
The hearings last year were contentious and laden with an unprecedented level of personal vitriol and threats. But so many committed lawmakers kept faith in the cause and persevered to enact stronger gun safety laws. Colorado – a state too-often stereotyped on guns– was leading the nation on a new path toward gun safety.
Unfortunately the opposition’s rancor didn’t end with the signing of the bills. It continued with the ugly recalls of two state senators who supported the measures and the forced resignation of a third.
Gun extremists approached the 2014 General Assembly in hopes of repealing most of what had been accomplished last year. (Read the list of anti-gun safety bills here.) But, even in an election year, legislators weren’t deterred by the threat of more recalls. The gun safety laws that were made in Colorado last year remain on the books thanks to advocates who showed up to every hearing and testified against every attempt to overturn the laws.
Colorado citizens, like Tom Mauser and members Ceasefire, said enough was enough. We’re proud of the fact that we came together and did in Colorado what Washington could not. Coloradans are safer because of these laws now and in the years to come.