DENVER -- A package of gun control measures won initial approval in Colorado's Democratic-controlled House Friday night, with Vice President Joe Biden personally phoning four lawmakers from his ski vacation in the state to speed along the emotional debate.
Biden phoned three freshmen legislators along with Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino. The calls came amid a long debate over the proposals, including expanded background checks and ammunition limits – responses to mass shootings, including the killings at a Colorado movie theater.
In all, the House gave the initial OK to four bills after a daylong debate. The preliminary votes set up final actions on the measures Monday.
The Democratic gun-control package that advanced also includes banning concealed weapons on public college campuses, and requiring that gun buyers pay for their background checks.
One of the freshmen Biden called, Democratic Rep. Tony Exum, hails from conservative Colorado Springs and said he had no idea who would be on the line when a "restricted" number rang his cellphone during afternoon debate.
"He said, `This is Vice President Joe Biden.' I said, `No way!'" Exum recalled with a chuckle after the call.
Exum said that Biden repeatedly called him "chief," a reference to Exum's former service as a fire chief. Exum said Friday night that his mind was already made up to support the gun-control measures, but Biden asked about the package's prospects. Exum said prospects were good and that he was happy to hear from the vice president on Colorado's gun debate.
Biden also talked to Democratic Rep. Mike McLachlan, whose southwest Colorado district includes more Republicans than Democrats.
The vice president also called Democratic Rep. Dominick Moreno, a lawmaker from suburban Denver.
"We just had a brief conversation about what we're doing today and emphasized the importance of Colorado's role in shaping national policy around this issue," he said. Asked what he thought Biden meant, Moreno said, "Well, I can only speculate, but I think mostly because Colorado is such a politically moderate state."
Biden left a message for Ferrandino but didn't speak to him.
The vice president was in Snowmass, just outside Aspen, for a holiday weekend skiing trip with his granddaughters.
Colorado's votes capping magazine sizes and expanding required background checks to private sales came amid 12 hours of debate. The votes were preliminary and unrecorded, but they were the first chance for many lawmakers to debate gun control after mass shootings last year in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.
"These high-capacity weapons have no place outside the fields of war," said Rep. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who sponsored the ammunition bill, which limits magazines to 15 rounds, with a more restrictive eight-round limit for shotguns. The bill makes an exception for magazines that people already have in their possession.
Republicans spent hours arguing that the limit violates Second Amendment rights. They also cited a Colorado gun manufacturer that has threatened to leave Colorado if the measure becomes law. The bill was amended to exempt that company, but Republicans still argued against the measure.
"We are not safer by limiting the constitutional rights of law-abiding firearm owners," said Republican Rep. Frank McNulty.
A few Democrats appeared to agree Friday, though an exact vote count won't be known until recorded votes are taken Monday. GOP leaders were hoping gun activists would spend the weekend pressuring rural Democrats like Rep. Ed Vigil of southern Colorado, the only Democrat who argued Friday against any ammunition limit.
"We should be going down the path of making mental health available to people who really need it," Vigil argued.
The gun debate was at times emotional and pointed. One gun lobbyist was asked to leave the Capitol after a heated exchange off the floor with a Republican lawmaker who said the lobbyist was falsely accusing her of considering voting for the gun-control measures. The gallery was at times packed with gun-rights activists.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has said favors some of the gun-control measures. Hickenlooper supports expanded background checks and indicated Thursday that he could support a potential amendment on magazine sizes, if the restriction was between 15 and 20 rounds.
He also said he thinks gun purchasers should pay for their background checks, but he had not made up his mind yet about the ban on concealed firearms on colleges.
All of the proposals still need to be considered by Democrat-controlled Senate.
Democrats in the Legislature said the time is right to limit gun access and magazine sizes to prevent more shootings.
"This is about kids who have been shot, over and over and over again," said Democratic Rep. Crisanta Duran said. "I am tired of seeing kids die, year after year, after year, after year."
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1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.
Sikh Temple Shooting
On August 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page opened fire on a Sikhs gathered at a temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding four more before turning the gun on himself.