President Obama is taking his federal gun reform push to states that have passed stronger firearms laws following the mass shooting of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, CT last December. On Wednesday he spoke in Denver, CO, a state with a strong hunting culture and gun-owning tradition, and which recently passed tough new gun restrictions
Speaking at the Denver Police Academy, only 6.5 miles from the Century 16 Aurora movie theater where last June a gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 others, the president praised Colorado’s new gun laws, saying the state is “proving a model of what’s possible,” and adding that “every day that we wait to do something about [gun violence], even more of our fellow citizens are stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. The good news is that Colorado has already chosen to do something about it.”
Colorado governor John Hickenlooper recently signed landmark gun reform laws that expand background checks on gun purchases and limit the size of ammunition magazines. But the opposition to stronger gun laws has been fierce in the western state. More than a dozen Colorado sheriffs held a rally before the president’s visit to voice their opposition to new gun laws. And Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and executive vice president of the National Association for Gun Rights, recently said in an interview that “we tell gun owners, ‘There’s a time to hunt deer. And the next election is the time to hunt Democrats.’”
The president said that “If you want to buy a gun, whether it’s from a licensed dealer or a private seller, you should at least have to pass a background check to show you’re not a criminal or someone legally prohibited from buying one. That’s just common sense.” (Gun violence expert Daniel Webster backed up the president’s assertion that expanding background checks will reduce gun crime in an interview with Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent that was published on Wednesday.)
In a reference to Aurora, the president received applause when he said, “I don’t believe that weapons designed for theaters of war have a place in movie theaters,” as he talked about why banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are so important in preventing more mass shootings.
As the president amps up the pressure on Congress to pass universal background checks and bring an up-or-down vote to the Senate floor on an assault weapons ban and limiting high-capacity magazines, a new poll commissioned by MSNBC’s Morning Joe finds that a majority 60 percent of Americans favor stronger gun laws, 87 percent support expanding background checks to private sales and gun shows, and 59 percent back a ban on military-style assault weapons.
The president will travel to Hartford, CT on Monday to praise the state’s bipartisan agreement to pass the toughest gun laws in the nation in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.
The Senate is expected to take up gun legislation starting next week when they return from Easter-Passover recess.
“The only way this time will be different is if the American people demand that this time it must be different,” the president said. “That this time we must do something to protect our communities and our kids…that we’re not going to just wait for the next Newtown or the next Aurora before we act.”