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Bills to repeal new background checks, magazine limits for guns fail in Democrat-led committee

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DENVER — Democrats halted a GOP effort to repeal new background checks for private firearm sales in Colorado on Monday as Republicans got their last chance this legislative session to change the state's gun restrictions.

A GOP measure to eliminate a law that bans ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds was also rejected by ruling House Democrats. Both gun-control laws were part of a package of legislation Democrats passed in 2013 at great political cost, losing two state senators through recall elections. A third resigned while a recall campaign was underway.

A Democrat-led House committee voted 7-4 against repealing the requirement that private gun sales conducted online and in person be subjected to a criminal background check. The same committee voted 6-5 to reject the bill to get rid of the state's ammunition magazine limit.

Democrats passed the laws when they controlled both legislative chambers, acting in response to mass shootings in 2012 at a suburban Denver movie theater and Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Republicans regained control of the state Senate for the first time in 10 years in November and succeeded in passing bills in that chamber to repeal the two new gun laws. But most expected the proposals to hit a wall in the Democratic-controlled House, which had already stopped two identical bills earlier this session that would eliminate the magazine limit and the background-check expansion.

"I don't believe that helps us," Democratic House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst said about the repeal attempts hours before they were heard. "I think what we have passed seems to be working and has not taken away anybody's gun rights as far as I know — and so I'm not in support of taking steps backwards on any of these."

Democrats say the new background checks are not burdensome and make it tougher for people with criminal records to get firearms.

Opponents of the new background-check law have repeatedly argued that the new background checks infringe on the constitutional right to gun ownership.

PHOTO: Jane Dougherty, center, whose sister was killed in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in 2012, sits with Dave Hoover, left, and Tom Sullivan, both of whom lost close family members in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, listening to testimony on bills aimed at undoing recent firearm laws, at the state Legislature, in Denver, Monday April 13, 2015. Lawmakers considered several proposals, including two Republican-sponsored bills to eliminate gun-control measures passed by Democrats in 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Jane Dougherty, center, whose sister was killed in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in 2012, sits with Dave Hoover, left, and Tom Sullivan, both of whom lost close family members in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, listening to testimony on bills aimed at undoing recent firearm laws, at the state Legislature, in Denver, Monday April 13, 2015. Lawmakers considered several proposals, including two Republican-sponsored bills to eliminate gun-control measures passed by Democrats in 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

"It's a Second Amendment right, and law-abiding citizens by definition aren't criminals, so it creates a burden on them that doesn't stop crime," said Rep. Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance.

Humphrey sponsored the bill to strike the state's ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. He told lawmakers it is a matter of public safety to eliminate the limit, saying larger magazines would help people defend themselves. Republicans said that if the bill were to get out of committee and onto the full House, they had enough votes to pass it and send it to the governor.

"Please reconsider, vote to repeal this law here today," Humphrey said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, who signed the gun-control laws, said last month he "would have real misgivings" about eliminating the magazine restriction.

Humphrey noted discussions about amending the bill to raise the magazine limit to 30 rounds instead of an outright repeal of the law. But he said he would "be opposed to that in principle," suggesting that the goal is still to get rid of the law.

"If the Republicans vote for a gun-control measure like that," Humphrey said of the possibility of raising the limit, "then how do you come back after you pass that and then say, 'We ought to repeal that bill next year' ?"

Also Monday, Democrats rejected a bill to allow concealed handguns at public schools.


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