Colorado Republican Sen. Bernie Herpin (Colo. Springs) is facing backlash for saying that it was "maybe a good thing" that accused gunman James Holmes used a 100-round ammunition magazine during the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. The massacre left 12 people dead and more than 70 wounded.
"As it turns out, that was maybe a good thing that he had a 100-round magazine because it jammed," Herpin said Wednesday during a hearing on a bill that would repeal a state ban on high-capacity magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.
"If he had four, five, six 15-round magazines, there’s no telling how much damage he could have done until a good guy with a gun showed up," Herpin added.
Herpin was responding to a question from state Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) which outlined the fact that Holmes purchased the 100-round magazine legally prior to the shooting -- and that had the high-capacity magazine ban been in place back in 2012, Holmes wouldn't have been able to purchase an ammunition magazine that held so many rounds.
Tom Sullivan, whose 27-year-old son Alex who was killed in the shooting and who testified against Herpin's repeal bill, was outraged by Herpin's remarks, according to The Denver Post.
"I've had a lot of thoughts since July 20 of 2012 and I can tell you that I never have once thought that it was better that that man walked into that theater with a 100-round drum and opened fire on the over 200 people that were in that theater," Sullivan said during the hearing, Denver's 7News reported. "From every indication I have, from the pictures and reports that I received from the DA, it says that 76 bullets came out of that magazine."
After testifying, Herpin said he was trying to illustrate that high-capacity magazines like the one Holmes allegedly used can be unreliable, and the fact that it jammed may have saved lives in the theater. "Certainly I don't condone what happened," Herpin added.
Political blog ColoradoPols had strong words for Herpin in their analysis:
Just a couple of points to add, since this horrifyingly tortured logic doesn't really merit anything you'd call "analysis." Herpin was trying to make a point, not wholly inaccurate, that some of the cheaper civilian-grade high capacity drum magazines aren't very reliable. The drum magazine used by the Aurora shooter in fact did jam his assault rifle–after numerous fatal shots. But the idea that anyone would count on product defects to protect the public in an actual shooting is, of course, ludicrous beyond words. Also, we are obliged to note that in the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, the Colorado-made Magpul high capacity magazines did not jam.
A Connecticut State Attorney's Office revealed last year that school shooter Adam Lanza used Magpul's popular PMAG, or polymer magazine, a 30-round ammunition magazine.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed several new gun control measures into law in 2013 including the ban on high-capacity magazines and a bill requiring universal background checks for all gun sales and transfers.
Herpin was elected last September replacing Senate President John Morse (D-Colo. Springs), one of two Democratic lawmakers recalled over their support for the state's strict new gun laws. State Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) was also recalled and a third recall effort was underway against another Democrat, state Sen. Evie Hudak (D-Westminster), but Hudak resigned from office before a recall could take place.
State Republicans have already attempted to repeal both the background checks and high-capacity magazine laws this legislative session, but the state Democrats, who control both the House and Senate, continue to squash the efforts.
KDVR's Eli Stoklos reported that Herpin's comments -- along with dwindling numbers of outraged gun owners showing up at the Capitol -- might point to the Republican's repeal effort backfiring for the party in the state.