The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Nation & World

July 17, 2013

Year after Colorado theater attack, gun debate rages

(Continued)

DENVER —

Soon after police say a former neuroscience graduate student named James Holmes, armed with a rifle and a high-capacity magazine able to fire 100 bullets, wreaked his carnage, the Democratic lawmaker whose district is home to the Century 16 movie theater where the shooting took place began drafting gun control bills, hoping Coloradans would be more receptive to them.

They weren't. "There was a sense of political fear," recalled state Rep. Rhonda Fields, who became a legislator after her son and his girlfriend were shot to death in 2005 to stop him from testifying at a murder trial.

In a television interview days after the shooting, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper appeared to cast doubt on the effectiveness of new gun control laws.

Despite a push by gun control groups and some relatives of those slain in Aurora, moderators at the presidential debates didn't bring up the topic. Craig Hughes, a top adviser to Obama's Colorado campaign, said it felt inappropriate to raise the issue while emotions were so raw. "The right course here was to not politicize it," he said.

Hickenlooper said he had quiet conversations around the state after that and was struck by wide support for universal background checks.

In November, Democrats won both the state House and Senate as Colorado helped re-elect Obama. And on Dec. 12, Hickenlooper declared that "the time is right" to talk about gun control.

Two days later in Connecticut, Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed his mother, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire before killing himself. The attack shocked a country that had grown hardened to mass shootings. Obama vowed an all-out push for gun control.

In Colorado, a similar push was already queued up.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun control organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, hired four lobbyists to help push gun bills in Colorado. Vice President Joe Biden called state legislators to urge them to vote for the package. Biden told them that Colorado, with its western traditions, could help set the tone for national gun policy.

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