Tempers unload as debate on gun control heats up

Aurora’s Fields among those threatened

Lawmakers such as state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, have become the target of sometimes threatening emails and phone calls during gun-bill debates in Colorado and other states. Enlarge photo

Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

Lawmakers such as state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, have become the target of sometimes threatening emails and phone calls during gun-bill debates in Colorado and other states.

DENVER The weekend after a heated debate about gun control, Colorado state Rep. Rhonda Fields was flooded with emails, including some she later told police disturbed and shocked her.

Fields usually gets a few dozen emails in a typical weekend, she said. But a handful of the 3,000 she received, along with a letter, were so charged with profanity and references to violence that Denver police arrested the suspected author, and state troopers increased security for the lawmaker.

The heightened emotions highlight a charged debate, pitting those who consider gun ownership a fundamental right against others calling for stricter laws to prevent violence after last years mass shootings at a suburban Denver theater and a Connecticut school.

Fields, a Democrat who represents the district where 12 people were killed while watching a movie, is a leading proponent for new gun restrictions, and her role has thrust her into the spotlight.

I will not be deterred by threats, Fields said in a statement.

Fields case and others show that lawmakers considering new gun restrictions are becoming the target of aggressive lobbying and sometimes even threats.

In California, police arrested a man suspected of threatening a state senator over a bill to limit the rapid reloading of assault weapons. In Minnesota, a lawmaker who sponsored an assault-weapons ban said shes received threatening emails and calls. During hearings about gun bills this year, armed Minnesota State Patrol officers have been present, which is a rarity.

Colorado lawmakers are bracing themselves for more of the same when they hear a half dozen gun bills Monday in the Senate. Some of the bills include proposals from Fields that have already cleared the House, such as requiring background checks for all gun sales and reducing the size of ammunition magazines.

There is this extremist element where it does feel dangerous to stand up, said Colorado state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, a Democrat who will be voting on the bills Monday. Ulibarri received a letter from someone who said they hope the senators daughter is raped. Ulibarri has a 2-year-old girl.

Democrats say many of the emails and phone calls they are receiving are from out of state, or from people who dont live in their district.

The emails directed at Fields, a black lawmaker, last month contained racial slurs throughout. One directed to her and another lawmaker co-sponsoring gun legislation read: hopefully somebody Gifords both of you, apparently referring to the shooting in Arizona that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Not all of the emails have been negative. Both Democrats and Republicans say theyve gotten many emails in support of their parties positions on gun laws.

Colorado Senate Republicans said theyve received thousands of emails, most of them urging lawmakers to protect the Second Amendment. Republican Sen. Kevin Grantham said he alone has received about 3,000 messages this session.

One read: As a law enforcement professional, I prefer that the general public is armed.

People are worried about losing their gun rights, Grantham said. Thats the theme. It comes in different shades and stripes, but its that people are worried about their Second Amendment rights.