Just two years ago, Vice President Joe Biden visited Colorado to lobby for state gun restrictions, and Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat and gun-control advocate, signed into law a package of seven strategies adopted by the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
At the time, the Colorado state House, Senate and governor’s office were in Democrat hands, Barack Obama had just won re-election and he had a Democrat majority in the U.S. Senate to prevent unwelcome bills from reaching his desk.
Now, the GOP holds the Colorado Senate, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, and Democratic Party issues took a beating in midterm elections earlier this month. Hickenlooper, who had been mentioned as a possible national candidate for Democrats, narrowly squeezed out re-election.
So Hickenlooper, on the question of arming teachers in classrooms raised in a recent interview with the CBS affiliate in Denver, said, “I’m certainly open to that discussion.
“The ability of people to defend themselves in a world that increasingly looks chaotic [is important]. There is not a parent in this state that doesn’t want to make sure we’re doing everything possible to make their kid safe,” he said.
The comment comes just a few weeks after more than 400 public school teachers in Colorado publicly stated their concern by taking a concealed-carry class, a requirement in the state to get a permit.
School districts still would have to decide whether or not to allow a teacher to carry a weapon onto campus.
But the Democrat’s statement reveals just how much has changed in two years ago, when his party took advantage of its power by moving quickly on issues controversial with voters, such as same-sex partner recognition.
Then, Democrats jumped on gun control, admitting they were doing the bidding of the White House.
Vice President Joe Biden even flew to the state to strong-arm Democrat lawmakers who were feeling pressure from their constituents to vote against the bills.
“He (Biden) said it would send a strong message to the rest of the country that a Western state had passed gun-control bills,” Tony Exhum, a Democrat from Colorado Springs, told the Denver Post.
House Majority Leader Mark Ferrandino, an open homosexual who also pursued a “civil unions” agenda even though voters had rejected the idea, admitted the gun-control bills introduced by fellow Democrats had national implications.
“I was shocked that he called. He said he thought the bills could help them on a national level,” Ferrandino said.
But the celebration over the gun-control agenda was short-lived. Hunters boycotted Colorado, and a major firearms manufacturer left, taking jobs out of state.
A new law made it illegal to conduct any type of transfer of a weapon without a background check. Initially, the law’s definition of transfer applied if a gun owner simply left his gun in his house while going on vacation and someone else came over to watch the house. It also applied even if the firearm was given to a gunsmith for repairs.
In practice, it left Fort Collins police stymied for weeks on how to handle a gun that had been taken from a women when she was seriously injured in a car accident. Police read the law as requiring a background check in order for them to return the private property when the woman recovered.
Voters, too, felt unrepresented by their elected officials and quickly voted to recall two of them – a first for Colorado.
Ejected from their elected positions by petition and recall vote were Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron, both Democrats and gun-control supporters. Voters replaced both of them with Republicans.
At the time, Hickenlooper had sent out a panicked email asking for help to defeat the recalls. He then claimed that the majority of citizens supported the Democrats on the issue and that the only ones pushing the recall were outside groups such as the National Rifle Association.
“We were only able to pass the law because Democratic legislators had the courage to stand up to outside special interests – but now those groups are trying to make an example of two of them by forcing them into a recall election,” the email said. “These recall elections cost a small fortune and do nothing to improve democracy or representative government. They are intended to intimidate and punish a select number of Democratic legislators for daring to vote their conscience – for daring to do the right thing to make their communities safer.”
Fifty-four of the 64 sheriffs in Colorado joined together to sue the state over the regulations, saying the laws are unenforceable. They argued the limits on transferring weapons would make it illegal for someone at a shooting range to hand a gun to an instructor to check or for a shooter to take a gun component from another person for repair.
Weld County Sheriff John Cooke had said: “Some in the media … asked me if I think it’s a good idea or if it’s appropriate for [a] government official to sue another government official. My response is unequivocally yes. It is our duty and responsibility as sheriffs to protect the people who elected us and whom we serve.”
Then a third Democrat lawmaker, state Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, hurriedly resigned as she faced her own recall. Her resignation allowed the Democratic Party to name her replacement and maintain an 18-17 advantage in the chamber.
Now, after Democrat losses, KCNC-TV in Denver noted Hickenlooper’s willingness to discuss allowing teachers to arm themselves “draws a more centrist line.”
The station noted he signed gun-control laws in 2013 that limited the capacity of magazines and expanded background checks for firearm purchases.
It was Hudak who had, during the hearing process as the gun limits were being adopted, scolded a witness who opposed the firearms restrictions.
Amanda Collins, 27, of Reno, Nevada, told her story of being assaulted and contended that had she been carrying a concealed weapon, the incident might have ended differently.
Hudak told Collins: “I just want to say that, actually statistics are not on your side even if you had a gun. And, chances are that if you would have had a gun, then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you.”
Hudak continued, speaking over the committee witness, and said women often are killed when they use a weapon in self-defense.
Finally able to resume her testimony, Collins said: “Senator, you weren’t there. I know without a doubt [the outcome would have been different with a gun].
“He already had a weapon,” she told the meeting of the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. “He didn’t need mine.”
He said that a woman who feels threatened by rape on a college campus doesn’t need to be armed because she can use a call box to get help.
Salazar’s statement came in a debate over a proposal to ban citizens possessing a concealed-carry permit from being armed on university campuses.
“It’s why we have call boxes,” said Salazar, “It’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at.
“And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around, or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody.”
Perhaps the most surprising statement came from U.S. Rep. Diane DeGette, a Denver Democrat in Congress who intervened in the state-level argument by displaying her perspective on gun magazines.
“I will tell you these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now they’re going to shoot them; so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot, and there won’t be any more available,” she said.
The Denver Post said DeGette didn’t appear to understand that a firearm magazine can be reloaded with more bullets.