DENVER
02/15/2013 10:23 am ET Updated Feb 15, 2013

Gov. John Hickenlooper Supports Universal Background Checks, High-Capacity Magazine Ban Bills Debated In Colorado House

After having not made a statement about the many gun control bills Colorado lawmakers are considering, Gov. John Hickenlooper made his stance on the gun control debate in Colorado much clearer on Thursday saying that he backs three of the four controversial gun control measures that have already passed through committee in the state House and will be debated at length on the House floor on Friday.

Hickenlooper told reporters on Thursday that he supports House Bill 1224 which bans high-capacity gun magazines and limits capacity to 15 bullets, House Bill 1229 which requires universal background checks for all private gun sales and House Bill 1228 which requires a free for gun buyers to pay in order to cover the cost of the background checks performed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

It is no surprise that Hickenlooper would support the universal background check bill, as he called for lawmakers to pass it and for vigorous debate about gun violence in Colorado during his State of the State address in January. "Let me prime the pump," Hickenlooper said. "Why not have universal background checks for all gun sales?"

But Hickenlooper had not thrown his support behind the high-capacity magazine limit nor the fees supporting the universal background check bill before now. "I know this is controversial and I'm going to catch a lot of heat for this," Hickenlooper said in support of the HB-1228, the bill that implements a fee for gun buyers to pay for their background checks, The Denver Post reported. "The folks that are needing, that are making use of this regulatory environment, it seems not unreasonable for them to pay the cost of the expense of that."

Hickenlooper also said that he had not taken a position yet on the forth gun bill that was debated this week -- House Bill 1226 which bans guns on all public college campuses -- and that he wanted to see "what the final version looks like" before making any decisions about it.

It appears very likely that most, if not all, of the Democrat-proposed gun bills will pass in the legislature as Democrats control both chambers this year and it also appears that if those bills make it to Hickenlooper's desk, he'll sign them.

Hickenlooper's support for the gun bills comes just a week after David Keene, NRA head, who was critical of many of the measures being proposed in Colorado, met with the governor to find common ground about gun control in the state.

When asked about the proposed measure that Colorado Democrats introduced last week -- but has not been debated in the House or Senate yet -- which would make owners, manufacturers and distributors of firearms civilly liable for damages caused by their weapons, Keene said he thought the plan was "foolish" policy.

"You can't sue them (manufacturers and sellers) because someone bought a legal product and then did something wrong with it," Keene told The Denver Post.

The proposed state measure appears to be in conflict with a Federal law that was passed in 2005 after relentless lobbying by the NRA which grants gun companies rare legal protection from liability lawsuits that many manufacturers of other kinds of products do not have.

The legal constraints that the NRA helped establish for gun companies has frustrated victims of mass shootings in Newtown, Conn. and Aurora, Colo. who want the courts to hold gun makers more accountable and perhaps force them to adopt stricter gun safety standards, The Washington Post reported.

Keene was also critical of the increased wait times for background checks on gun purchases in Colorado stemming from a surge in sales in 2012 that ultimately maxed the system out last December.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the agency which processes the background checks in the state, has had severely increased wait times on a background checks due to surging gun sales. A background check generally takes minutes in Colorado, but since end of December and into January, the CBI's queue had been hovering around 10,000 checks, causing a wait time of more than nine days. That more than doubles the wait time just from earlier in December when gun buyers saw background checks taking 100 hours or more.

Keene also remarked that the NRA has always considered Hickenlooper to be reasonable on guns but stressed that they believed the national Democratic party was putting pressure on the governor to develop stricter gun control measures in the state.

But Keene's criticism of the gun bills in Colorado appears to be out of touch with what the majority of Coloradans actually want. Recent polling from Project New America/Chris Keating and The Denver Post found that a majority of Coloradans' favor stricter gun control.

Fox31 first reported on a survey from PNA/Chris Keating which asked 905 Colorado voters, in general, if they favor stricter gun control -- 55 percent of Colorado voters said they favor of stricter gun control, while only 40 percent were opposed.

The PNA/Keating poll echoes similar sentiments found in a recent Denver Post poll which found greater support for gun control measures than for gun-owner rights. According to The Denver Post, 60 percent of Colorado voters support proposals that would: ban assault-style rifles, limit high-capacity magazines and require universal background checks on all gun sales.

Similar numbers are appearing in national polls as well. Universal background checks on gun buyers are favored by 92 percent of Americans, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll released last week. And support for the plan crosses demographics, with those in favor including 93 percent of gun households, 89 percent of Republicans, and 85 percent of households with NRA members.

A recent Associated Press-GfK poll also found that 6 in 10 Americans favor stricter gun laws, in general. The poll also found that Americans were angrier about December's horrific school shooting in Connecticut than they were about the September 11 terrorist attacks.

According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, more Americans support than oppose President Barack Obama's suite of proposals to reduce gun violence, but many are skeptical that they would be effective at preventing future mass shootings.

Forty-six percent of respondents to the survey said they either strongly or somewhat favor the proposals, while 40 percent were strongly or somewhat opposed. Support for the proposals was deeply divided along party lines: Democrats favored the proposals 77 percent to 11 percent, while Republicans opposed 77 percent to 12 percent. Independents were more likely to oppose than to favor the proposals, 47 percent to 34 percent:

The Huffpost/YouGov survey found divided opinions as to whether the proposals would effectively prevent shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., that instigated the proposals. Only 10 percent of respondents said that the proposals would be very effective at preventing future mass shootings if enacted, while 29 percent said they would be somewhat effective, 15 percent said they would be not very effective and 32 percent said they would be not at all effective. (The survey only asked whether the proposals would be effective at preventing mass shootings, not other types of gun violence.)

The survey also found that support for stricter gun laws has remained high since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, with 53 percent now saying gun laws should be more strict, 30 percent saying there should be no change, and 12 percent saying gun laws should be less strict. Two prior HuffPost/YouGov polls conducted since the shooting also found support for stricter gun laws above 50 percent, and other recent polls have likewise found more support for stricter gun laws since the shooting.

Colorado lawmakers are preparing for a long day of debates Friday over all four of the aforementioned gun bills which will all be up for a vote. 7News reports that the lawmakers have been told to be ready for the possibility that the lengthy hearing could go into Saturday.

If the bills pass the House, the state Senate will vote on them next.

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Pivotal Moments In The Federal Gun Control Debate

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