Hickenlooper: ‘We don’t just stop with universal background checks’ — accepts Gabby Giffords’ endorsement

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AURORA | John Hickenlooper took to Aurora Monday night to tout his plans for gun control if he were elected to the U.S. Senate, a race the candidate said will be hard fought.

Gun violence victim and former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords extended her support to former Gov. John Hickenlooper at the forum.

“Make our country a safer place, a better place. Do you have the courage to fight? Join your voice with mine,” said Giffords, who was shot at a constituent meeting in 2011.

Others, including state Sen. Rhonda Fields, joined in in supporting Hickenlooper and his support for gun safety reforms, such as universal background checks, banning assault weapons and limiting magazine capacity.

The endorsements were held at the Heritage Christian Center, which sits in the shadow of the theater where 12 people and an unborn baby were killed and 70 were injured during a shooting in July 2012.

“I’m so over thoughts and prayers,” said Marlon Saunders, senior pastor at Heritage. He pointed to the theater and a recent shooting at the neighboring Aurora mall as reasons why he opened up the center to Giffords and her team for the endorsement and forum.

The former congresswoman, who previously endorsed Congressman Jason Crow and mayoral candidate Omar Montgomery, asked the crowd to join her in supporting Hickenlooper. 

“A lot has changed in the last severn years. Gun safety legislation went from a political third rail to a winning issue,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the group the former congresswoman founded with her husband to endorse and support candidates, policy and legislation.

“Colorado has a long tradition and history with gun ownership but has seen firsthand the devastation of gun violence,” he said. “Voters are keenly aware of the need to balance rights with responsibilities to elect people who will stand up for the safety of communities.” 

Ambler and Fields, among others, reiterated at the event Hickenlooper’s signing of two bills in 2013 that required background checks with all gun purchases and limited the number of rounds in a magazine.

“It was not easy,” Fields said of the legislation.

While Hickenlooper has integrated those policies into his campaign for Senate, critics have been quick to point out the former governor’s resume and role in the legislation.

Former state Sen. John Morse, who was recalled after voting for those bills, said in a tweet in August the Legislature “passed gun safety laws in spite of @Hickenlooper NOT because of him.”

Hickenlooper said universal background checks are a “first basic step” but that he won’t stop there if elected to the Senate. 

“We don’t just stop with universal background checks. We want to make sure that we have an assault weapons ban, that we limit the size of magazines, and we know that that’s going to save lives. We strengthen enforcement for for those who traffic (guns) illegally. We stop the ghost guns. These are the the guns that are manufactured with new robotics that don’t have any registration number. We look at ways we can begin to hold the reckless and irresponsible members of the gun manufacturing community, hold them accountable,” he said. “The dysfunction in Washington and bitter partisanship has prevented anything from getting done. We should not allow ourselves to be held hostage by that dysfunction.”

Hickenlooper would face Sen. Cory Gardner in November if he’s made the nominee after the June primary. He earned about 31 percent of the raw vote during Saturday’s caucus, which determines which candidates make the primary ballot. Andrew Romanoff, a favorite among progressives, got nearly 55 percent of the raw vote during statewide caucuses this weekend, according to state Democrats.