DENVER – On Wednesday the Colorado House’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee put an end to a bill that would allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit. But the vote – a party-line 8-3 vote – came after one member of the public opposed to the bill offered an “unorthodox” proposal to let the bill go to the House floor.
Senate Bill 97 was sponsored in the Senate by Republican Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton and in the House by Rep. Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch.
Its assignment to the so-called “kill committee” was no surprise. Before Wednesday, that committee of eight Democrats and three Republicans had already dispatched three pro-gun rights bills sponsored by House Republicans. That included bills attempting to repeal the 2013 law limiting the size of ammunition magazines and one to allow concealed weapons on school grounds.
Wednesday’s hearing included testimony from many of those who usually speak to lawmakers on the subject: Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, Robert Evanston of the Firearms Coalition of Colorado, representatives of Moms Demand Action and Colorado Cease Fire, and Jane Doughtery, whose sister, Mary Sherlach, a school psychologist, was murdered at the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in 2012.
Then there was Holly Murtagh of Denver, who brought an unconventional argument to the hearing Wednesday. Murtagh is a member of Moms Demand Action but was speaking on her own behalf and not on behalf of the group.
She told the committee to let the bill go to the House floor, an unusual posture for a person speaking against the measure.
“I’m frustrated,” she said. “There’s been no change in how politics are working in Colorado.”
The same gun bills come up every year at the Capitol and are dealt the same fate, which she called a stalemate.
“As constituents, we have marched, we’ve walked out of schools, we’ve stood on capitol steps to protest inaction, hired babysitters so we can come to committee hearings to speak, politely, yet you don’t seem to hear us,” Murtagh added.
Murtagh said she is ready to see who the “strong, proactive, sensible gun law representatives are, by having a vote on gun law issues,” and suggested the committee Democrats “change the game” by allowing the bill to go to the House floor.
“Kill committees protect many of our House representatives by not forcing them to vote on gun bill legislation,” and constituents want to see how House members vote on gun bill issues,” she said. “We want accountability. Help us identify who to lobby for sensible gun laws and who we should work against. I know you understand the 2013 dynamic. I don’t think you understand the 2018 dynamic.”
Murtagh didn’t sway any of the Democrats to vote for the bill in order to force a recorded vote of the entire House.
“I share your frustration,” said committee vice chairwoman Rep. Susan Lontine of Denver. But she would still vote against the bill because that’s her values and that of her constituents, she said.
Several other Democrats on the committee also said they found her viewpoint interesting but would still vote their conscience and/or their district on the issue.
Murtaugh told Colorado Politics after the hearing that she became interested in the gun issue when her first son was in pre-school and she got her first “lockout” call.
The second lockout call, a year later, was a “wake-up call” to pay attention and get involved, she said.