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Two local lawmakers join Denver gun debate panel

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Feb 20 2013 12:53:13 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 20 2013 11:26:51 AM CST

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper moderates a discussion that includes two Colorado Springs lawmakers as panelists.

DENVER -

An estimated 900 people provided a sold-out audience for a gun control discussion moderated by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The Tuesday night event was sponsored by the Denver Post and the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab, a non-partisan organization focusing on community safety.

The six panelists included three who favor some form of gun control.  State Sen. John Morse of Colorado Springs; State Rep. Rhonda Fields of Aurora, where last summer's theater shootings happened; and Tom Deland, president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.  Morse and Fields are Democrats.

Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs; Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, and David Kopel, media director for the Independence Institute served as the three panelists who oppose gun control. 

The panelists discussed gun control in general and responded to gun control legislation passed Monday by the Colorado House that now awaits Senate consideration.  The House approved four bills that would require background checks for all gun purchases, ban gun magazines containing more than 15 rounds, and allow public colleges to ban concealed weapons.

Morse, Fields and Deland agreed that high-capacity gun magazines are unnecessary.

"Assault weapons are intended for military war," said Fields.  "They're not intended to be a part of our community."

"I speak for 90 police chiefs across the state," said Deland.  "We believe these bills can make our community safer over time.  The question of whether they're unconstitutional probably should be a separate discussion."

"When there's a little bit of a hurdle to buying guns, who knows how many suicides or homicides we can prevent," said Morse.

Lamborn, Buck and Kopel believe that any attempt at gun control is unconstitutional and violates the right to bear arms as detailed in the Second Amendment.

"I do think we've veered, unfortunately, into some questionable territory that infringes upon the Constitution," said Lamborn.

"The bills that passed the House are unconstitutional (because) they reach far beyond where the government has power," said Kopel.

Buck received perhaps the loudest applause of the night when he spoke of mental health as a factor in gun control.

"We need to deal with the twisted minds that commit these crimes, not the twisted metal," he said.

The panelists seemed to find the most common ground on the mental health issue and how to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

"I'm glad to see such a renewed interest in mental health issues," said Morse.  "I've been working on that for six years.  Let's hope this is a genuine interest that leads to real resources that last."

The panelists ended the event by taking questions from the audience.

A Learning Lab spokesman said proceeds from the event will support a counterterrorism exhibit at the organization's Denver headquarters.

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