States’ rights advocates must be wondering what they got themselves into in Colorado right about now. With Congress unable to get anything done at all, let alone substantial progress on gun safety reform state legislatures are stepping in and passing their own reforms. In the case of New York, this kind of thing is to be expected. But substantive gun reform coming out of a libertarian-minded state like Colorado? That’s an entirely different story.
The Democratic-controlled Colorado House of Representatives recently approved a package of gun-safety reforms. The bills, which will now go before the Democratic-controlled Senate, require background checks for all gun purchases (to be paid for by applicants), a ban on ammunition magazines with more than 15 rounds and a measure to allow colleges in the state to ban concealed weapons on campus. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has said he supports the magazine limits and universal background checks but had not made up his mind on the college campus ban.
Opponents of the bill accused lawmakers of taking advantage of the tragedy of Newtown, Aurora and the thousands of other gun deaths that happen in this country to strip citizens of their Second Amendment rights. Of course. A gun grab. “This bill is taking advantage of a tragedy that’s out there to demonize law-abiding citizens who are exercising their Second Amendment rights, and using it as a way to generate $4 million to $5 million in increased taxes on these people,” said Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland.
The issue is especially loaded for Colorado because Magpul Industries, an Erie-based maker of gun magazines, has threatened to leave the state if the bill limiting magazines to 15 rounds becomes law. An amendment to the law says manufacturers could still make high-capacity magazines for out-of-state sale, but that’s not good enough for opponents of the bill. Of course, nothing would be, would it?
Should these measures pass and become law, and there’s plenty of reason to think they will in some fashion, the first significant crack in the frontier-myth of masculinity and firearms will have been exposed and the narrative shifted. Gun evangelists, like their religious counterparts, may finally be on the retreat in the culture wars.
The extend to which the NRA and its minions have been caught flat-footed on the state fight is rather astonishing, unless of course you remember the November 2012 election and the level of disbelief Republicans had at just how badly they lost. Conservative ideologues pursued a states’ rights agenda in opposition to federal policies–like civil rights laws–they disliked and a conservative Supreme Court was all to happy to enable that pursuit. Now that state legislatures are turning more Democratic lets see if conservative enthusiasm for local control continues.
Photo from Mojave Desert via flickr.