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A Civil Conversation on Gun Control?

PHOTO: Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, testifies in favor of background checks for private gun sales Monday before a Colorado Senate committee. CREDIT: Denver Post.
PHOTO: Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, testifies in favor of background checks for private gun sales Monday before a Colorado Senate committee. CREDIT: Denver Post.
March 6, 2013

PHOENIX - It's a divisive issue in Arizona and the nation, and some are wondering if a civil conversation is possible about proposed gun-control legislation.

In Colorado, Mark Kelly, husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., testified Monday in favor of background checks for private gun sales. After hearing from Kelly, a Colorado Senate committee approved a package of gun-control bills, including limits on so-called "high-capacity" magazines.

Stephanie Huss, a League of Women Voters spokeswoman, said she's hoping discussions about gun control can be both civil and productive.

"We have serious issues to discuss in this country, and gun rights is one of them," she said. "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. The committee hearing was interrupted by boos and groans from gun-rights supporters. Last weekend, Huss moderated a forum that was nearly taken over by pro-gun attendees, jeering lawmakers who support gun control.

Gun-rights advocate Savant Suykerbuyk holds a concealed-carry permit and is organizing Operation Mountain Standard, an effort to import high-caliber magazines into Colorado before any ban takes effect. He said he thinks the bill banning magazines with a capacity of more than 15 bullets 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 said he'll support legislation that would "demonstratively improve public safety," and Huss said she worries that a knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy such as the theater shootings in Aurora, Colo., 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," she said, "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?"

Seven gun-control bills are scheduled for debate by the full Colorado Senate on Friday.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ