AP Photo/Paul Sancya
In the wake of the horrific shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, the anti-gun media is searching for a hero. Buzzfeed thinks it may have found one in John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor who signed gun control bills into law when he was in office in 2013. Hickenlooper’s pitch is that he’s able to work across the aisle and get stuff like “commonsense” gun laws passed. That’s not exactly what happened, and it leaves aside entirely the question of “what happened after that?”
Along comes Buzzfeed singing Hickenlooper’s praises, although they at least point out that it wasn’t a bi-partisan movement that passed the laws. In fact, not a single Republican voted for the measures to limit magazine capacity to 15-rounds and to require background checks for all private transfers of firearms.
But not a single Republican in the legislature backed the measures Hickenlooper signed.
“I got pissed off,” Hickenlooper said. “Every Republican I knew … had no problem with background checks. … What pissed me off was the Republicans wouldn’t compromise.”
Buzzfeed also notes the political cost to Democrats who supported the bills, with two of them losing recall elections and Hickenlooper narrowly winning re-election as well. But the closest Buzzfeed gets to actually admitting any real problems with the legislation is confined to minor squabbles in the governor’s office.
There had been disagreement, he acknowledged, among his staff about how quickly and sweeping to move against high-capacity magazines. But he said he reached out to groups such as the National Rifle Association, to no avail, and helped craft the legislation behind the scenes.
Whatever reservations Hickenlooper had about the 15-round magazine limit then, he now says he wishes Colorado had gone further. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d go down to 10” he added.
That’s what Hickenlooper says now. Back in 2014, a year after Hickenlooper signed the bills, he ignited what the Denver Post called a “political firestorm” when he met with county sheriffs to talk about the gun control laws.
Gov. John Hickenlooper ignited a political firestorm with his comments Friday to Colorado’s sheriffs, saying he was unaware they wanted to meet with him in 2013 to discuss their concerns over proposed gun laws until it was too late and he had no idea the measures would be so controversial.
Hickenlooper also told the County Sheriffs of Colorado at their biannual meeting, held in Aspen, that he regretted not having all the facts when he signed the bills into law.
Press accounts show Hickenlooper tried to charm the sheriffs, who sued him over the gun bills. But within hours, the effort backfired.
Hickenlooper told Buzzfeed news recently that he wishes he had pushed for a ten-round limit on magazines, but in 2014 he told the sheriffs he would have had second thoughts about the legislation if he had known how divisive it would have been. In fact, when he spoke to sheriffs in 2014, he said he recognized how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to enforce the magazine ban (you can watch the entire interaction below).
Most importantly, neither Buzzfeed News nor John Hickenlooper acknowledge what’s happened in Colorado since he signed those gun control bills into law. As it turns out, a 2018 study shows Colorado’s universal background check law didn’t increase the number of background checks. The study’s author blames the law’s failure on a “lack of compliance”, but offered up no suggestions about how to increase compliance with an unenforceable law.
Despite the magazine ban and background check laws, violent crime in Colorado has gone up, not down. In fact, Denver was named the big city with the biggest increase in violent crime in 2018. Shouldn’t that be worth mentioning in an article about Hickenlooper’s gun control laws? Is the story simply that Hickenlooper “took on the gun lobby and won”, or is that Hickenlooper burned enormous amounts of political capital in ramming through unpopular laws that also don’t work to increase public safety?