DENVER - Colorado Democrats on Wednesday stopped another Republican bill that tried to repeal limits on the size of ammunition magazines.
Democrats passed the law last year. It prohibits the sale of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. The law was passed in response to mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut.
The Senate Committee on State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee rejected the proposal on a 3-2 party line vote with three Democrats, including the committee chairman, voting against the bill co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Bernie Herpin of Colorado Springs.
The vote came after a four-hour session in the old Supreme Court chamber at the state Capitol that included a three-hour public hearing. Thirty people spoke for and against the bill before the committee. Around 50 people attended the session.
Prior to the public hearing, Herpin made a comment that possibly hurt his bill's chance of passage. He told the committee how last summer's Aurora theater shooting related to the debate about whether high-capacity magazines are dangerous enough to be illegal.
"As it turned out, that was maybe a good thing that (defendant James Holmes) had a 100-round magazine, because it jammed," Herpin said. "If he'd instead had four, five, six 15-round magazines, no telling how much damage he could have done until a good guy with a gun showed up."
The comment upset Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was one of the 12 people killed in the shooting last July.
"I can tell you that I never have once thought it was better that man walked into that theater with a 100-round drum and opened fire on the more than 200 people who were in that theater," Sullivan said.
Herpin later apologized and elaborated on his comment, saying he only wanted to explain how susceptible high-capacity magazines are to jamming.
Herpin took office in January, replacing another Colorado Springs senator, Democrat John Morse, who was defeated in a recall election tied to his stance favoring gun control.
Many bill opponents complained that such important legislation should have been put before the full Senate instead of a committee. The entire Senate would have considered the bill had it passed. Opponents also believe the hearing was merely a formality, and that the outcome already had been decided.
Democratic Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, the committee chairman who was a key figure in support of gun control last year, reflected on the vote.
"Instead of talking about repealing everything from last year, actually say how do we move forward?" he said. "What do we do to ensure public safety? What do we do to ensure there are resources available for folks with mental health issues?"
Democrats said the purpose of the magazine law is to minimize damage from mass shooters who use larger magazines to inflict the most harm in a short amount of time. But Republicans said the law restricts the rights of law-abiding citizens and doesn't stop criminals who are intent on doing harm.
A House committee controlled by Democrats also rejected a similar repeal bill earlier this week. Herpin said Wednesday's vote likely ends any chance of repealing gun control laws in the current legislative session.