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A Civil Conversation on Colorado Gun Control?

PHOTO: A "Legislative Lowdown" event in Durango (on Feb. 23) drew a standing-room-only crowd to talk about gun control. Photo courtesy Ross Park.
PHOTO: A "Legislative Lowdown" event in Durango (on Feb. 23) drew a standing-room-only crowd to talk about gun control. Photo courtesy Ross Park.
March 4, 2013

DENVER - Gun control is a divisive issue in Colorado, and some are wondering if there can be a civil conversation about proposed state legislation on the matter. Today, the state Senate begins hearings on a package of proposed gun control laws, which range from stepped-up background checks to limits on so-called "high-capacity" magazines.

Stephanie Huss with the League of Women Voters said she's hoping lawmakers will step up to the plate with discussions that are both civil and productive.

"We have serious issues to discuss in this country and gun rights is one of them," Huss declared. "But politics has taken an ugly turn here in the U.S., and we need leadership from the top. And if they can't do it, I don't know how the rest of us can continue to try to have a conversation."

That could be difficult. Last weekend, Huss moderated a "Legislative Lowdown" in Durango that was nearly taken over by pro-gun attendees, jeering lawmakers who support gun control. And last week, police arrested a Colorado Springs man for sending threatening emails and phone calls to state Representative Rhonda Fields of Aurora, the sponsor of two of the gun control bills.

Savant Suykerbuyk is a gun rights advocate. He holds a concealed-carry permit and is organizing Operation Mountain Standard, an effort to import high-capacity magazines into the state before any ban takes effect. He thinks a ban on magazines with a capacity of more than 15 cartridges seems arbitrary.

"I've never seen any real explanation why one of these numbers is better than another, or why one would make us safer, one is more dangerous," he said. "I don't see the reasoning for that, and that's one of the big problems I have."

Suykerbuyk's project includes an exchange March 16 at Boulder Gunsport, trading gun magazines for donations to Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, Colorado's largest in-state gun lobby.

Suykerbuyk said he'll support legislation that would "demonstratively improve public safety." And Huss worries that a knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy like the Aurora theater shootings, however well-intentioned, may not work.

"We always say we have this Western attitude: 'Don't tell me what to do. Don't infringe on my rights.' But then, you're going to have the other side that says, 'Well, we've got to do something.' So, can we come up to a compromise?", she asked.

Huss said she thinks perhaps lawmakers should follow state Senator Ellen Roberts' suggestion, and study the issue to reach a solution that satisfies both sides in the debate before taking a final vote.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO