Battlground Colorado: The Frontier of Gun Rights

By Will Grant

DENVER—On Saturday, gun-rights advocates turned out in 120 cities across the nation to rally in support of their Second Amendment rights—rights, they say, are being eroded by politicians presenting ill-founded solutions to problems that have nothing to do with assault weapons, magazine capacity or background checks. Colorado has found itself at the center of the nationwide gun-law debate due to a package of four bills, currently before the state Senate, that proposes some of the nation’s strictest gun-control legislation.

Other states are proposing various types of legislation after the Newtown, Connecticut shooting in December, but Colorado is worth focusing on. They have been there before.

In 1999 an affluent suburban Denver school was the site of the Columbine High School shooting. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, two seniors, shot 12 and injured 21 students and a teacher. The two shooters then killed themselves.

The Columbine shooting was the most infamous modern school shooting, making Sandy Hook one of a number of disturbing copy-cat crimes that have since followed suit. Identical demands for gun registration, assault-weapons bans, Second Amendment attacks and other weapon controls angered some of the residents who saw their tragedy being hijacked by agenda-driven politicians. Their children were murdered, and suddenly Columbine became a cause célèbre along with a well-known film Bowling for Columbine, by director Michael Moore. Once again residents were angered by the profits made from their tragedy and pointed to the long-term care required for many of the seriously injured.

Now two decades later, the argument continues.  Can school shootings be prevented by going after law-abiding gun owners and weapons manufacturers?

As with Columbine, Colorado once again may the worst place for pro-gun proponents to make their case. For a state with strong ties to its frontier heritage, the Democrat-led Senate now has the ability to present Governor John Hickenlooper with four laws. Laws that many Coloradans believe infringe on their Constitutional rights.

The laws, if passed, will limit the capacity of magazines to less than 15 rounds, require background checks on all firearm transactions, impose a fee on firearms buyers to cover the background check, and ban guns on college campuses. Last week, the bills were successfully voted through the House and are now before the Senate. If the Senate passes them, Hickenlooper has said he’ll sign them. None of these laws have any relevance to the Sandy Hook shootings, since handguns were used, the weapons were legally registered (though stolen), and it would be hard to believe that a law preventing a mass murderer who intended to commit suicide from taking guns on campus would have any effect.

On Saturday morning about 600 people gathered on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol as part of the National Day of Resistance, a countrywide effort to rally against the infringement of gun rights, against President Obama’s 23 executive actions issued in January, and in support of the Second Amendment. In Colorado, the pending legislation brings added urgency to the cause.

“It’s go-time now,” said Al Lamson, 53, of Southwest Denver, who is a peacetime veteran of the US Army. “If we don’t stop them now, it’s no telling how far they’ll go. Our politicians have been totally replaced with criminals.”

Lamson believes Colorado is in a position to hold back the tide of gun-control efforts loosed by the Newtown shooting, and it’s every up-standing citizen’s duty to make a stand for what’s at stake. To him, it’s not time to gear up for March Madness, it’s time to fight for your gun rights.

Several speakers addressed the crowd from different angles of the issue. Mike Holler, a Second Amendment expert and author of The Constitution Made Easy, detailed the pertinent specifics of the Bill of Rights. The future of gun rights, he said, lies in the people’s ability to prevent the politicians from running roughshod over the citizenry.

“We assemble here with a very simple message that I think even Congress can understand,” he said. “We resist.”  Resist seems to be a new meme, a vocal group that wants to go against any legislation that is passed.

Evan Todd, a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting, spoke about guns as a matter of heritage. He was raised with guns in the family, is a staunch supporter of gun rights, and now speaks publicly on the issue. For him, guns are not only an American constitutional right but a family value that he’s not ready to let go of.

“We don’t want to have to tell our children that they don’t have the same rights we did,” he said. “We need to protect the freedoms and rights that have made this country good.”

Two Colorado politicians were on hand. Colorado Senator Vicki Marble, who is originally from Montana and grew up with guns in the house, called on women from the crowd to join her on stage. She made it clear that a woman’s right to defend herself included carrying a gun. She also alluded to recent advice on how a woman can prevent rape when not armed.

“I didn’t have any daughters,” she said. “I had Marines. But if I did have a daughter the last thing I would give her to defend herself would be a whistle.”

Other speakers included Matt Arnold, a regular speaker at Tea Party events; Lori Saine, of the Colorado House of Representatives; and Rod Brandenburg, a Denver-area gun shop owner. The message was consistent: Hold on to your rights.

The Democrat-held Colorado Senate will consider the four gun laws in the coming weeks. Many Senators have pledged support for the laws, though some remain uncommitted.

THE IMPACTS OF NEW GUN LAWS

The impacts of these new laws are not on the criminal or insane, but rather on law-abiding Coloradans and local employers.

The law limiting magazine capacity is the most contentious because Magpul Industries, one of the country’s largest distributors of gun magazines for civilians and the military, is based north of Denver, in Erie, Colorado. If the law passes, Magpul has said, the company will leave the state. And it will take with it about 600 jobs and $85 million in annual business.

That’s prompted other states to woe Magpul to coming to more gun-friendly environments, like Texas or Mississippi. It also moved lawmakers to add an amendment to the law allowing high-capacity magazines to be manufactured within the state if sold elsewhere.

Magpul has remained steadfast and says that in good conscience it cannot continue to do business in Colorado if the Governor signs the law. It’s hard for anyone to argue in favor of losing business, and at least a few Democratic Senators have made it clear they’re not sure how they’ll vote.

The universal background checks are less problematic, though how much one will cost is unclear. Currently in Colorado, if you buy a gun at a gun show, you’re required to pay a $10 fee for the background check. The new fee would apply to all firearm sales except those between immediate family members and of antique guns.

The owners of a Littleton, Colorado gun shop said they’ve had enough of the legal wrangling. They’re not worried; they’re just over it. They point out that 62 sheriffs in the state say they won’t support unconstitutional laws, meaning they won’t support an infringement of a citizen’s rights. The pending laws, the shop owners say, are another foolish example of Democrats pushing unreasonable restrictions.

“This is typical liberal move where they’re trying to lock the barn door after the horse has already been stolen,” said one of the owners, who declined to be identified. “We’re for criminal control, not gun control. I tell people that all this is just the liberals trying to pick up a turd by the clean end.”

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