Gun Amendment Stirs Colorado Voters
By Carl Hilliard, Special to Stateline
DENVER -- Bullet holes and damage from the Eric Harris-Dylan Klebold shooting spree at Columbine High School had not been cleared away when a movement to tighten gun control was born in Colorado.
Now, voters in the November general election will have an opportunity to vote on Amendment 22, which will close what gun control supporters call the "gun show loophole." It would bar weapons sales at gun shows until a background check has been completed.
Tom Mauser, father of a student slain during the 1999 rampage, the worst shooting incident ever in a high school, vowed to take steps to stop easy access to weapons, particularly by minors.
In an election ballot fired by grief and indignation, the amendment seems to be a sure thing, according to political researcher and pollster Floyd Ciruli.
"It will pass, because we also have a tax initiative and growth initiative on the ballot, and both of them could lose," Ciruli said.
"That leaves this one An incredible event, a massive effort to collect signatures, has taken place, resulting in this amendment. It targets a small, not very attractive interest group, gun show operators, and opposition has not been credible."
Ciruli and his researchers note that opponents have spent most of their time attacking Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who is not very anti-gun, but has supported gun control. "In any event, the amendment has constantly drawn 75 percent support, and if it doesn't win by 60 or 70 percent, I'll be very surprised," Ciruli said. The amendment's backers have raised about $400,000 for the effort while its main opponent, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, had trouble reaching $15,000. But the National Rifle Association is expected to start a campaign against the proposal soon.
With two months to go, the campaign is expected to heat up and television spots are expected to air the last two weeks in October.
Contributing to the amendment's momentum is the support given by Gov. Owens, who is in the second year of a four-year term as Colorado's first Republican chief executive in nearly 25 years.
Owens this year asked the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a bill tightening regulations on gun shows, but both houses balked at that, and Mauser's group took over, pointing out to voters that their do-nothing Legislature chose not to act in the public's interest.
The impact of the amendment, if it passes, is significant.
Now, only federally-licensed firearms dealers must conduct background checks of gun show customers, and keep purchase records identifying buyers. Amendment 22 would extend that requirement to all gun show transactions, including sales by unlicensed collectors and private trades between patrons.
It would not, however, apply to sales through newspaper classified ads or in private transactions outside gun shows.