It’s a love-hate time of year. Warm sun. Aching frosts. Blue skies. Ferocious winds.
I get optimistic when I see the crocuses pocking through the annual glacier as it recedes from the north side of my house. But I get real when the melting reveals several strata of dog and cat poo deposited there during the winter.
I’m holding my breath when it comes to state lawmakers bringing an end to Colorado’s death penalty.
If you’re new to this part of the paper, I can never say enough bad about the death penalty. Above all, I believe murdering anyone — enemies, robbery victims, convicted murderers — is repulsive and just dead wrong. But I also like to point out that it doesn’t make us any safer. Study after study shows that the death penalty does not affect murder rates. The landmark 2009 Smart on Crime Study went even further. Police chiefs agreed the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder. That, on top of endless UN research showing the exact same thing is just too much to ignore.
So, too, is the horrifying fact that since executions were juiced by a Supreme Court decision in 1976, at least 140 death-row exonerations have been signed when it turned out the cops got the wrong guy. One hundred forty. No kidding.
So spring is here and state lawmakers are actually very close to ending Colorado’s death penalty. Just when I get all optimistic, however, here comes bad weather.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed some gun-control bills this week that bring a modicum of common sense to the out-of-control gun rights debate. Some gun aficionados are reacting to a new law demanding consistent background checks for gun sales like I would over a bill institutionalizing Sophie’s Choice. I love a dramatic argument, but the comment pages of our online newspaper read like Gunsmoke: The Soap Opera.
After emotional state hearings, anti-pro-gun-pro-regulation proponents, I think, had emotionally explosive diarrhea. These kinds of tempestuous hearings aren’t unique. Both Republicans and Democrats run them to draw attention or support to a wide range of causes: cancer research, AIDS treatment, homeless veterans, union bashing and the list goes on. Victims with real stories to tell get real results. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, victims from Aurora, from Columbine, from Sandy Hook have been hitting the circuit in an effort to drum up support for current bills. Most have repeatedly stated they support Second Amendment rights — just not limitless rights. Despite one Connecticut man’s heartache, he genuinely wants to prevent someone else from losing their little boy. State Rep. Rhonda Fields, from Aurora, lost her son to a gangster who murdered him because he was a witness to a crime. She used to hold her son’s picture up and talk to cameras about the need to improve witness protection. She was very effective. But the recent appearance of her and others at the Capitol have infuriated gun-control critics.
A broken-hearted dad and many others may be misled in what they think will work, but they tell their stories so people know this isn’t about numbers or statistics. It’s about real little boys gunned down at real schools. It’s easy to dismiss horrible ideas when they happen to nameless people. It’s a whole different story when a sobbing father tells you what happened on the other end of a gun, or because of the lack of cancer treatment, or because the government doesn’t ensure cars are safe, or vaccines, or canned tuna — whatever the issue is. I don’t believe Congress will pass any bills. Colorado has. There will be another couple of massacres soon, and this will become an election issue in ‘14. More Republicans will stand behind gun control or be tossed out. And it’ll start all over. Having gone through a shooting massacre just a few steps from my desk, I selfishly hope it doesn’t happen here again, or to anybody I know. Despite the cloudless skies today, looks like cold weather on the horizon.
Reach editor Dave Perry at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]