Ammunition limits and expanded gun background checks are nearing passage in Colorado, putting the Western state with a gun-loving frontier heritage close to becoming the first state outside the East Coast to ratchet back gun rights after last year's mass shootings.
The most powerful pieces of a Democratic gun control package could be on the way to Colorado's governor Wednesday. The ammunition bill would limit most magazines to 15 rounds, though existing magazines would be grandfathered. The background-check bill expands the requirement to private and online gun sales, a significant expansion.
So far, only New York has approved statewide gun controls in the wake of the mass shootings. Federal gun restrictions are pending in Congress.
Both chambers of Colorado's Democratic Legislature have approved the bills. But a procedural matter is holding up the process — the gun controls passed in slightly different versions, and bills must pass both chambers in identical form before they become law.
If the House takes the procedural vote to streamline the language Wednesday, it sends the measures to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has said he'd sign both measures into law.
The votes give opposing Republicans another chance to debate the gun controls and try to peel away Democratic support.
The GOP has decried the entire gun package as a bad reaction to last year's horrific mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and a suburban Denver movie theater.
"It's about passing something and solving nothing," Senate Republican Leader Bill Cadman complained Monday.
Democrats have stood firm on most parts of the package — though they gave up on a bill to ban guns on college campuses and another to make gun owners and sellers liable in some cases for crimes committed with their weapons. Supporters say the gun limits are needed to reduce mass shootings that have become too common.
"The status quo is unacceptable. It's completely unacceptable," said Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Denver.
In Colorado, Republicans have fought hardest against the two measures pending Wednesday, the ammunition limit and the expanded background checks.
But the GOP's chances of defeating the measures now are slim. Once bills clear both chambers, the only legislative maneuver left is to attempt to force a special committee of House and Senate members to work to smooth differences in the bill. Ruling Democrats would control any such committee and would therefore make sure the bills got to the governor for final approval.
Two bills in the gun package have not yet faced votes in the House and were just starting consideration Wednesday. Those measures included a ban on online-only gun education required to receive a concealed-weapons permit, and a ban on gun ownership by people facing domestic violence charges.
The fifth and final bill in the Democrats' gun package is ready for the governor to sign. That bill would revive user fees, likely $10, for gun purchasers who need background checks. Currently the Colorado Bureau of Investigation does those checks for free and faces a lengthy backlog. The governor has two business weeks to sign the fee bill, or it becomes law without his signature. Hickenlooper has said he'll sign it.
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