Colorado legislature hears new gun bills this week

By Lynn Bartels --- The Denver Post 

Her dad bled to death at Columbine High School. His nephew died in the Aurora theater shooting. Her sister was one of six staffers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The family of victims of gun violence provided the most dramatic testimony Monday afternoon as lawmakers in separate House and Senate committees debated seven Republican gun bills that loosened gun restrictions, expanded gun rights or overturned gun-control legislation Democrats passed two years ago.

"My sister had a right to life," said Jane Dougherty of Littleton, whose sibling was killed at Sandy Hook. "My sister had a right to grow old. ... Nobody ever died from a background check."

Many of the arguments for or against the bills are the same ones lawmakers have heard before, but this time around there wasn't the vitriol that marked the 2013 hearings. Instead of hundreds of Coloradans descending on the Capitol, forcing staffers to set up overflow rooms, there were seats available in the committee rooms.

Dudley Brown, head of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, the state's most strident gun rights group, says the reason Monday appeared fairly tame is many members felt they did their work in last year's election.

The state Senate went Republican for the first time in a decade, the Democratic majority in the House shrank to three seats, and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, once deemed invincible, was in the fight of his life.

The Democratic-controlled State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee heard five gun bills late into the night. They were all expected to die. The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee heard two bills, which passed on 3-2 party-line votes.

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