Before a packed room Feb. 5, the Jeffco commissioners voted to approve a resolution supporting the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and opposing any new gun regulations being considered at the state or federal level.
The resolution, introduced on Jan. 29 by Commissioner Don Rosier, passed on a 2-1 vote after four hours of public and commissioner discussion. Rosier and Commissioner Faye Griffin voted for the measure, while Commissioner Casey Tighe, who presented a modified resolution of his own, voted against. Tighe’s alternative resolution offered support for the Second Amendment but also called for consideration of new gun-control legislation and more support for mental health services.
While Tighe said several times that he supports the right to bear arms, he said the language in Rosier’s resolution would act to silence further discussion about gun issues.
Tighe said a passage in the resolution that says neither the state or federal government “should entertain consideration of any new legislation that would infringe on constitutionally protected rights under the Second Amendment,” including restrictions on firearms sales and accessories, essentially shuts the door to discussing measures that could make the public safer.
Tighe said several U.S. Supreme Court decisions have affirmed the right to bear arms but also confirmed the government’s right to place restrictions on gun ownership.
“There’s a strong statement that the Second Amendment protects our rights to keep and bear arms. But there can be some reasonable common-sense restrictions, and that has to be a discussion we have,” Tighe said. “It’s a discussion we have to have as a society, because these are important issues.”
Rosier disagreed, saying his resolution would not silence debate. Instead, he sees it as taking a stand against knee-jerk reactions to recent mass shootings.
“We as citizens of the United Stated can always debate anything we want to,” Rosier said. “We should not go and put new laws on the books; we should not punish those who legally possess firearms, who use them legally, without first supporting the rules and regulations on the books currently.”
Rosier called many of the recent gun-control proposals from President Obama arbitrary, including limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
Rosier also said he found Obama to be hypocritical for approving for himself a lifetime Secret Service detail while advocating laws that would prevent regular Americans from defending themselves.
During the discussion Feb. 5, Griffin seemed to agree with Tighe that the resolution as presented by Rosier could shut down discussion on the issue.
“I just want to have something where it says we could listen to legislative changes as long as they don’t touch Amendment 2 per se,” Griffin said. “If there’s something that comes up through the legislature that could maybe help a situation, that’s the only area on (Rosier’s resolution) I would want some kind of a change. Otherwise, I like it.”
Yet by the time the vote was taken, Griffin said she’d been persuaded that Rosier’s resolution wouldn’t inhibit debate. She also said that people with more knowledge about guns, something Griffin said she has little of, should be working to craft laws.
The public discussion leading up to the vote was mostly civil as supporters and opponents of Rosier’s resolution came forward to speak. Supporters talked about the need for personal protection and how guns had saved their lives; opponents said sensible gun laws, such as universal background checks, should be considered and discussed.
But at times the discussion grew more than a little testy.
Some supporters of the resolution cited a need to own weapons like the AR-15, which was used in both the Aurora theater shootings and the Newtown, Conn., school attack, to keep liberals and a tyrannical government from taking away freedoms. On the other hand, some opponents derided gun ownership as macho posturing and questioned the need for the Second Amendment at all.
One supporter of the resolution, who described himself as a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, was shouted down when he began to quote Adolf Hitler’s views on gun control and called Obama a non-citizen.
At another point, opponents of the measure yelled when Rosier thanked Jared Gates, who was a student at Columbine High School during the shootings in 1999, for speaking in favor of the resolution. Before Gates had spoken, Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was killed at Columbine, had spoken out against the measure.
Some in the crowd yelled, “What about Tom?” Tighe quickly, while opponents of the measure were shouting, said he wanted to make sure that Mauser was thanked as well for coming to speak.
Contact Ramsey Scott at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.
Some questions and answers
The Jeffco Commissioners weren’t the only people talking about gun control in Colorado last week. Both sides of the debate were making headlines.
On Feb. 5, state Democrats unveiled their proposals for gun control. And just two days later, the president of the National Rifle Association, David Keene, met in private with Gov. John Hickenlooper to discuss Hickenlooper’s support for tighter rules on gun sales and ownership.
With all the discussion and rhetoric, here are a few common definitions and a list of what’s being proposed at the state level here in Colorado:
What measures are being proposed by the state’s Democratic legislators?
On Tuesday, state Democrats unveiled proposals for tightening gun laws. The eight bills, which will be introduced over the next few weeks, tackle everything from universal background checks for gun purchases to liability for gun manufacturers.
Some of the provisions:
• A ban on ammunition magazines containing more than 10 rounds.
• All gun sales would be subject to background checks.
• Concealed-carry permits would not be banned from college campuses.
• People wanting a concealed-carry permit would have to take an in-person training class. Currently, permits can be obtained after taking an online course.
One of the more contentious proposals would allow manufacturers of assault weapons to be held liable for damages and injuries caused by their products. The legislation would contradict a federal law passed in 2005 that prevents firearm manufacturers from being held liable.
What is an assault weapon?
The legal definition of an assault weapon is somewhat tricky.
Fully automatic weapons and some semi-automatic weapons that met various guidelines were labeled assault weapons by the 1994 federal assault weapons ban. Yet when that law expired in 2004, so did the list of semi-automatic weapons classified as assault weapons.
Many states consider guns like the AR-15 to be an assault weapon.
Do gun control laws work?
Both sides of the gun-control debate like to point to studies when asked whether or not gun-control laws work to help curtail gun violence. Yet who is right? The answer might be neither or both.
Studies from both the Centers for Disease Control and the National Research Council concluded there wasn’t enough available data to conclude whether concealed-carry laws or gun-control limits prevented crime.