Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, up for re-election in Colorado this fall, joined 30 of his Democratic colleagues in D.C. for a filibuster about gun laws yesterday following the latest massacre, this time in Orlando, which left a bloody mark as the worst single-gunman mass shooting in U.S. history.
Led by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrats spent roughly 15 hours talking about gun violence. The marathon session was aimed at forcing the Republican Senate leadership to allow votes on gun measures.
When Bennet took the floor, he talked about the difference between the ways Colorado lawmakers and Congress have reacted to gun violence. Colorado has passed new laws; Congress has not.
“Unlike Washington, in Colorado our legislators actually rose to the occasion to take some tough decisions … they got together and they actually strengthened our background check system. Colorado’s legislature closed the gun show loophole and the internet loophole and required a background check for every gun sale,” Bennet said.
The Senator then ran down the list of what that has meant for Colorado in practice within the past year.
“I want to be precise about this,” he said, noting that in 2015 background checks had blocked 7,714 people from buying guns, a figure that made up about 2 percent of the applications for firearms purchases.
Those within that 2 percent included murderers, rapists, domestic abusers and kidnappers who were denied guns because of the new rules, Bennet said.
“Is there anyone who is going to come to the floor of the United States Senate and say that Colorado is worse off because we’ve kept guns out of the hands of murderers or kidnappers or rapists?” he asked. “This isn’t mythical. This is the actual fact of what’s going on in a Western state that has background checks.”
In January, President Barack Obama made executive actions to hire more people to do background checks, narrow the scope of who can sell guns without a license and ramp up enforcement of existing gun laws, saying Congress had failed to act on curbing gun violence.
Colorado already has tougher gun laws on its books than the federal government, coupled with measures that deal with mental health. In 2013, state lawmakers put a 15-round limit on gun magazines and implemented background checks for private gun sellers.
But doing so didn’t come without political consequences, something Bennet did not mention in his floor speech. In a recall election in 2013, voters ousted two Democratic lawmakers who supported Colorado’s new gun laws.
Those two former legislators, John Morse and Angela Giron, who served in the Colorado Senate, accompanied Obama during his January news conference at the White House when he made executive actions.
“It’s not odd in the least that we got invited— the president followed Colorado’s lead,”Morse said at the time.”It just took two-and-a-half years.”
Girion said she thought the two had gotten invites to the White House as a reward for standing up to the gun lobby.
In February, when the Democratic presidential primary swung through Colorado, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a hard push about curbing gun violence in the final days of the campaign.
Colorado, of course, is a state with a bloody history of gun violence, from the Columbine school shooting to the slaughter in an Aurora movie theater. Last year, two triple homicides in Colorado Springs — one at a Planned Parenthood clinic, another on a residential street on Halloween — took place within weeks of each other.
One teenager was a witness to both.
“The first time, she cried,” her boyfriend told The New York Times. “She’s a veteran now.”