Colorado gun legislation

U.S. Debate on Gun Laws Is Put to a Test in Colorado

by JACK HEALY and DAN FROSCH, The New York Times  |  published on January 15, 2013

With politicians in Washington deeply divided over new gun regulations, an urgent national debate ignited by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School is storming into state legislatures across the country. And nowhere is that debate more emotionally charged or politically consequential than here in Colorado, a reluctant crucible for the battle over guns.

This state, one of hunters and sport shooters, has endured two of the most horrific mass shootings in American history, and this year for the first time in more than a decade it could pass major gun-control legislation.

Gun-control advocates say it is a moment forged in part by the massacre inside a suburban Denver movie theater in July that left 12 people dead and dozens wounded. But it is also one created by demographics, of population shifts that have nudged the political center left while transforming traditionally rural, conservative swaths of the West.

“We’ve had it with mass shootings,” said Beth McCann, a Democratic state representative. “People just don’t want to hear about another massacre. This is enough.”

To lawmakers and advocates on both sides of the debate, Colorado is becoming a national test case for what kind of gun regulations — if any — can gather support from lawmakers, law enforcement officials and a public whose relationship with guns has been forged by tradition as much as tragedy.

This is a place where even the horrors of the 1999 attack at Columbine High School in suburban Denver only temporarily shifted the debate on guns. In 2000, Colorado voters passed new restrictions on purchases made at gun shows, but a few years later, the General Assembly relaxed gun laws by making it easier for people to carry concealed weapons and limited the ability of towns and cities to pass strict gun laws.

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