Vail Daily editorial: Echoes ring from ’13
The 2013 session of the Colorado Legislature in many ways was a great spasm of “We’ve got to do something!”
In the wake of the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, well-meaning but misguided Democrats in both houses decided to pass a brace of new “gun safety” bills. The bills were hustled through both houses, with legislators accepting a shockingly small amount of dissenting public comment, then signed by a governor unwilling to fulfill his role as a voice for views not represented by a majority of legislators.
As a matter of policy, those bills have accomplished just about exactly what opponents claimed — diddley squat. Sure, a few people have failed the background checks on private gun sales, but the strong feeling here is that there are plenty of people, even law-abiding ones, willing to ignore that requirement — which only Colorado has among its neighbors.
The ban on the sale or transfer of ammunition magazines holding more than 15 rounds is even more ridiculous, particularly because the law is virtually unenforceable. As an aside, it should be noted that the 100-round magazine in the so-called “assault rifle” of the Aurora theater shooting suspect jammed almost immediately. The suspect — we’re not going to name him — did most of his horrific damage with other firearms. The ban would have had no practical effect during the crime that prompted the law.
The only real effect of the laws has been the backlash on the Democrats who passed them. The bills cost three state senators their seats — two by recall and one by resignation as a recall effort was building. That wave of voter anger was a significant factor in Democrats losing their slim majority in the senate, and the partisan balance in the house is closer than it was in 2013, too.
The backlash against the bills also made Gov. John Hickenlooper’s bid for re-election last year a nail-biter. Republican Bob Beauprez is a fine man, but he’s a candidate Hickenlooper could have beaten easily if not for his stance, however squishy, on the gun bills.
The echoes of that 2013 session are still gumming up the works of state government. Senate Republicans, many of whom ran on a promise to repeal the bills, recently passed a bill to repeal the magazine ban. Vail resident Kerry Donovan, a Democrat who represents Eagle and six other mountain counties in the state Senate, was a co-sponsor of the current bill.
Donovan’s support for repealing the magazine bill has led to some flak from constituents in Aspen, but that sensible move will play well in most of the rest of her district, including much of Eagle County.
From Prohibition to the 55 mph speed limit to an arbitrary limit on how much ammunition a law-abiding citizen can carry in a firearm, people in politics shouldn’t have to keep learning that the best way to erode respect for the law is to pass unenforceable laws.
The magazine ban repeal doesn’t stand much of a chance in the state House, still controlled by Democrats. But as long as this law remains on the books, it’s going to make life difficult for the legislators who support it, and will make productive work by our representatives harder to get done.