Tempers flare during votes on gun bills

At Capitol, much debating yields little compromise

Kicking off a long, emotional debate about guns, Colorado lawmakers, including Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, center, Rep. Joseph Salazar, left, and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, clashed Friday over setting limits on the size of ammunition magazines, a proposal in a package of Democratic bills responding to mass shootings. Enlarge photo

ED ANDRIESKI/Associated Press

Kicking off a long, emotional debate about guns, Colorado lawmakers, including Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, center, Rep. Joseph Salazar, left, and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, clashed Friday over setting limits on the size of ammunition magazines, a proposal in a package of Democratic bills responding to mass shootings.

DENVER – House Republicans strained their vocal cords Friday in an attempt to derail four Democratic gun bills.

Democrats said they would let Republicans talk as long as they wanted, but they intended to take votes on the bills even if they had to pull an all-nighter.

They took nearly six hours to debate the first bill, to ban the sale of ammunition magazines of more than 15 rounds. It won preliminary approval on an unrecorded voice vote.

“I really believe high-capacity magazine clips have no purpose except for in the theater of war,” said the sponsor, state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.

But Republicans strenuously opposed the idea and said two firearms companies will leave the state if the bill passes.

House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, said there’s no evidence that banning certain magazines will prevent violence.

“Does this bill in any way enhance public safety?” Waller said. “It’s nothing more than a hunch that it’s going to have an impact on public safety.”

Republicans need to turn five Democrats against the bills to defeat them. They were hoping Durango Rep. Mike McLachlan would be one of them after he sponsored an amendment Tuesday to raise the bill’s original ban on magazines of more than 10 bullets to 15.

But McLachlan stuck by the bill and lamented the lack of an effort to compromise.

“As far as I can tell, there seems to be no appetite on one side of this debate for any type of magazine limitation whatsoever. I think that’s unreasonable. I think 10 (rounds) is unreasonable,” McLachlan said.

The Durango Democrat said the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the Second Amendment right to own a gun also set limits on the right.

“No constitutional right – even the Second Amendment – is absolute,” he said.

Southwest Colorado’s other representative – Republican Don Coram of Montrose – said rural, pro-gun voices were being drowned out.

“Our voices deserve to be heard,” Coram said.

Coram said he does not use high-capacity magazines, but he does carry a .45-caliber pistol when he works in remote areas.

Debate and voting was expected to continue into the night Friday. Final votes in the House are scheduled for Monday.

jhanel@durangoherald.com