Colorado lawmakers begin gun violence debates |

Colorado lawmakers begin gun violence debates

Kristen Wyatt
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Karina Sartiaguin, 18, who was shot in the back outside her high school in 2010, and is paralyzed from the waist down, participates in a gun control rally on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol, in Denver, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. Colorado's long-anticipated gun control debate is getting underway, with some Democrats planning to pursue gun control measures including expanded background checks and a possible statewide assault-weapons ban. At the same time, Republicans were arguing Monday for a bill designed to allow school employees to carry concealed weapons at work. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

DENVER – Colorado’s gun control debate got going Monday in the Legislature in fitting fashion for a matter so divisive.

More than 100 gun control supporters rallied on the Capitol steps for tougher gun legislation. Inside, Republicans argued that schools would be safer if it was legal for employees to carry concealed weapons.

Welcome to Colorado’s gun debate.

Democrats won the first day’s round, with a Democratic Senate committee voting on a party-line 3-2 decision to reject the guns-in-schools bill. The measure would have allowed local school districts to decide whether their school employees could carry concealed weapons no campus.

One of that bill’s sponsors, Republican Sen. Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch, argued that his teacher wife and children aren’t safe on a gun-free campus.

“My wife and my kids are sitting ducks,” Harvey said.

Gun opponents made emotional arguments, too.

Democratic Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, argued that more guns in schools could inadvertently put students at greater risk of being accidentally shot.

“Sometimes passion overcomes reason,” Aguilar argued.

A few hours before, more than 100 gun control supporters rallied on the Capitol steps for tougher gun legislation. They said they want to see Colorado ban assault weapons, limit ammunition and expand background checks as ways to reduce gun violence.

“I don’t think it’s difficult to ask that we have universal background checks, that we take these weapons of war off the streets,” Dave Hoover, uncle of Aurora theater shooting victim AJ Boik, said at the rally.

The proposals were expected to be made by House Democratic Rep. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat and an outspoken supporter of gun control.

“Military-style assault weapons are not needed in our neighborhoods. They need to be on the battlefield,” said Fields, whose son was shot and killed in 2005. “I am sick and tired of the bloodshed.”

Republicans were pitching a different path to safety, arguing for a proposal to allow school employees to carry concealed weapons. But the GOP bill faced long odds in a Democratic-controlled Senate committee.

Another Republican gun bill that would require armed security in businesses that don’t allow patrons to carry concealed weapons faced similar odds later in the week.

Senate President John Morse, a Democrat and former police chief, told reporters he’s conflicted about which gun measures could work. Morse has said he supports an assault-weapons ban, but he told reporters he is still searching for the right approach to curb gun violence.

“I don’t see a magical solution,” Morse said.

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