DENVER — Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the House Republicans lost yet another slate of bills to make it easier to carry concealed weapons and to strike a 2013 law limiting how many bullets a gun magazine may hold.
All five bills, four supported by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, died on party-line 5-4 votes in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
Three of the four Republicans on the State Affairs committee have received campaign contributions from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners: Reps. Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, Stephen Humphrey of Severance and Tim Leonard of Evergreen.
RMGO is the state’s most prominent gun rights organization, which prides itself and has been blasted by some Republicans for taking a no-compromise stance on expansive gun rights.
Last year, gun advocate David Kopel of the libertarian Independence Institute said RMGO’s refusal to negotiate has led to little legislative success but great fundraising talking points.
Two Republicans who sponsored some of Monday’s bills are tied to RMGO: Reps. Lori Saine of Firestone and Justin Everett of Littleton.
All five RMGO-funded lawmakers have endorsed Patrick’s father, Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton, for the U.S. Senate race that pits him against a dozen other Republicans. Neville’s other son, Joe, is a former RMGO lobbyist and manager of his father’s Senate campaign.
Four of the five bills in State Affairs Monday were repeat visitors to that committee. In addition to the repeal of the gun magazine law, there were measures floated to allow concealed weapons on school grounds and business owners to use deadly force. Another bill would wipe out the permitting process for concealed weapons. The latter, launched by Sen. Tim Neville, passed through the Senate last month and was carried Monday by his son.
The only new bill on Monday came from Rep. Perry Buck, a Greeley Republican. Under her bill, active duty military personnel could obtain concealed weapons permits. Buck asked that the bill be amended so that it applied only to active duty military personnel ages 18 to 20 years old. It was the only one of the five that didn’t have an RMGO endorsement, according to Kopel.
State law currently prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from obtaining a concealed weapons permit, although those 18 to 21 years of age can purchase a firearm.
George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District Attorney who prosecuted Aurora Theater shooter James Holmes, says having such a law in place could have changed what happened in the shooting. He estimated 20 percent of the audience members in the theater were veterans or active duty military personnel. But then he told the committee he couldn’t be certain how many in the audience were actually military, because so many “fled the scene” after the shooting.
Tom Sullivan, whose son died in the shooting, told the committee at least two people in the theater had concealed weapons but chose not to use them, which he said could have made the situation worse.
Those against the bill also pointed out military personnel struggle with suicide and domestic violence, and most suicides are committed with guns.
Other bills Monday pitted family members of gun violence victims against those who argue gun rights should not be limited in any way.
During the committee’s review on a bill to repeal the 2013 law on ammunition magazines, one witness said the Bible backs a person’s right to self defense. Pastor Doug Burdette of Red Feather Lakes, a former police officer, told the committee that people have “a God-given right to defend ourselves…the natural right to self defense is based biblically,” he said.
Humphrey and Saine, the bill’s sponsors, said the law is unenforceable, and bans on automatic weapons have not resulted in a reduction in gun violence.
“If a thief or rapist comes into my home, they will leave with one thing: a bullet,” Saine said.
But high-capacity magazines allow those who carry out mass shootings to do maximum damage, according to Jane Dougherty. Her sister, Mary Sherlach was among those murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. Dougherty reminded the committee, “If the plan is a mass killing, high-capacity magazines are the shooter’s choice.”
As the years have passed, the crowds that show up at the Capitol demanding the General Assembly lighten the restrictions on firearms have shrunk, likely because the chances of such bills passing in a Democratic-controlled House are virtually nil.
The largest crowd was at the hearing to testify both in favor of and against the bill that would allow concealed weapons on school grounds. By the time the committee had moved onto the fourth bill, allowing deadly force to be used against an intruder at a business, the crowd had thinned to little more than a dozen. Most who stayed until the committee wrapped up at 9 p.m. did so to testify on every bill.
The crowd dwindling didn’t go unnoticed.
Rep. Patrick Neville pointed out during the hearing on the ammunition magazine bill that people, including sheriffs, no longer show up to testify because “they’re being ignored.”
Photo credit: Chuy Benitez, Creative Commons, Flickr.
Clarification 3/10/16: story clarified to point out that Rocky Mountain Gun Owners did not support the military concealed weapon bill sponsored by Buck.