DENVER | A bill that would ban high-capacity magazines, crafted by an Aurora lawmaker in response to the July 20 theater massacre, passed out of a Colorado House Committee on Feb. 12.
The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on a vote of 7 to 4, hours after Democratic committee members passed another bill that would require universal background checks for gun buyers.
House Bill 1224, sponsored by state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, would ban the sale, transfer or possession of high-capacity magazines that accept more than 15 rounds of ammunition or eight shotgun shells. The bill would not be retroactive, meaning current owners of high-capacity magazines would be able to keep their magazines. The bill was amended from its earlier version, which banned magazines that carried more than 10 rounds.
James Holmes, the alleged shooter in the Aurora theater massacre, was armed with a 100-round high-capacity magazine that contributed to the deaths of 12 people in the July 20 theater shootings.
Fields said her proposal would decrease fatalities associated with high-capacity magazines. “(Shooters) use these large magazines to be able to kill as many people as they possibly can,” she said. “These type of high-capacity clips have no place in our community, in our streets, in movie theaters, or in our schools.”
Supporters of the bill included some Colorado residents connected with the July 20 theater massacre.
Arapahoe County Coroner Michael Doberson said he supports Fields’ proposal because high-capacity magazines cause devastating wounds. He said they are military weapons that shouldn’t be in the hands of civilians.
Aurora resident Jessica Watts, cousin of Jonathan Blunk, who was killed in the Aurora theater shootings, also testified in support of Fields’ bill. She said the Aurora massacre lasted less than two minutes, yet dozens of people were either killed or wounded because of the alleged shooter’s weapons.
“In 90 seconds, that massacre occurred in less time than I will be up here testifying today,” she said.
Arapahoe County resident John Buckley, who was a paramedic for over 20 years, said he supports Fields’ bill because he’s seen the lethal effects of high-capacity magazines firsthand.
“I’ve seen this up close and I wish I didn’t have to,” said Buckley, who is also the chairman of the Arapahoe County Democratic Party.
Another supporter was Littleton resident Jane Dougherty, whose sister was a psychologist killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut last December. She said her sister’s body was wounded so badly in the attack that her sister’s husband was not allowed to “say goodbye.”
“We cannot wait for another massacre to transpire before we take real action,” she said.
Opponents of the proposal said it would hurt Colorado businesses, infringe on the rights of private residents to protect themselves, and not contribute to a decrease crime.
“I can’t in good conscience strip my citizens of the ability to protect themselves,” said Justin Smith, sheriff of Larimer County.
He said reducing the amount of ammunition in a magazine to a maximum of 10 rounds doesn’t make sense because it’s easy to drop and reload a 10-round magazine clip. He said if the bill passed, law-abiding Colorado residents who want to protect themselves by purchasing high-capacity magazines would drive to Wyoming or other states to purchase them.
Doug Smith, chief operating officer for Erie-based Magpul Industries, which manufactures high-capacity magazines, said the company would be forced to move out of Colorado if the bill passed. The bill would prohibit many of the company’s existing customers from purchasing high-capacity magazines, he said.
“Citizens of Colorado should have access to standard-capacity magazines,” said Smith, defining “standard-capacity magazines” as having 30 rounds of ammunition.
Robert Parker, owner of Wheat Ridge-based Parker Arms & Gunsmithing, which sells new and used guns, said the bill would negatively impact his business.
“I’m concerned this bill is going to make potential criminals out of my lawful customers,” he said.
State Reps. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton, Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock and Jared Wright, R-Fruita, voted against the bill.
About 30 people testified on Fields’ high-capacity magazine ban bill in total, with twice as many people testifying in opposition of the bill.
Before amendments, Fields’ original bill banned high-capacity magazines that accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition or five shotgun shells.
More than 100 people signed up to testify on Fields’ two gun-control bills during the 8-hour hearings on Feb. 12, the majority of them gun-rights advocates.
Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or [email protected].
To read about the other bill, click here.