Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) recently told a group of sheriffs that if he and his staff had known ahead of time how much "commotion" a ban on high-capacity magazines would cause, "we probably would have thought about it twice." The Democrat blamed a staff member for making a "commitment" on his behalf that all but forced him to sign the ban, and he said that he never actually expected the measure to pass the state legislature. Hickenlooper also said that after "all the kerfuffle," he went back and got "some facts that we should have had at the beginning."
Hickenlooper's comments came during his appearance Friday at the biennial meeting to the County Sheriffs of Colorado. Dozens of Colorado sheriffs joined together last year to sue Hickenlooper over the gun control measures he signed, which included banning magazines that can hold more than 15 rounds and requiring background checks for gun sales. Hickenlooper's comments to the sheriffs on Friday had already created controversy, after one sheriff posted on Facebook that the governor had "apologized to the Sheriffs for not listening to them prior to passing the new gun bills." On Wednesday, a video of a portion of Hickenlooper's remarks was uploaded to YouTube by a conservative political video website called Revealing Politics.
"On the magazine ban, you know there has not been one arrest in the entire state, on that statute," one attendee can be heard telling Hickenlooper. "So to me, that just proves what a worthless statute that really is. You know, if we have a DUI law, and you can qualify that, and quantify that, and you can [say] we've had this many people arrested throughout the state, thousands -- that law is working. When we don't have any arrests on a high capacity magazine ban, just proves to me that it was a worthless piece of legislation and it caused a lot of angst for no reason."
Hickenlooper began his extended reply by saying that he "wouldn't argue that."
"I think a lot of people, if they'd known how much commotion was going to come out of the high capacity magazines, probably would have looked for something different, or a different approach," Hickenlooper said. "One of my staff made a commitment that we would sign it, if it got passed. To be honest, no one in our office thought it would get passed -- [it] would get through the legislature. There were several Democrats that said without question they weren't going to vote for it."
Hickenlooper cautioned that he wouldn't agree that the lack of arrests was evidence that the law was worthless. He said he had "always respected the 2nd Amendment," but that the words of some police officers had swayed him on the high-capacity magazines issue.
"The thing with the high capacity magazines was, in urban areas, I realize that most of you aren't in urban areas, but in urban areas, that's how police offers get killed," Hickenlooper said. "I'll tell you, the tipping point for me on signing the, giving the, going along even after one of my staff had committed us to signing it -- pretty much, you give your word and you generally, or someone who works for you gives your word for you, someone who has the responsibility and the ability to do that, generally, you try not to go back on that -- but I looked real hard at that one. But the, a couple of police officers, including the police chief in Denver all said, this is the way police officers die, is these kids go around with these high-capacity magazines."
But in the end, Hickenlooper said that he hadn't had all the facts from the beginning of the debate. And he questioned the efficacy of the law.
"If we'd known that it was going to create -- that it was going to divide the state so intensely, I think we probably would have thought about it twice," Hickenlooper said. "In the modern world, you can't have -- I think one of the biggest problems facing the country right now is how divided we are on all these things that, as you point out, how important really was it? Right? They tell me -- after all the kerfuffle, I went back to try to get some facts that we should have had at the beginning -- they told me that they're roughly 300,000 magazines that carry more than 15 rounds in the state of Colorado already. So a) how is a police enforcement officer ever going to tell which is the old one [which is] the new one, how big a difference is it going to make if there are that many? Some punk kid in Aurora wants to get out there and start spray shooting his neighbor, which is still happening, right, in Aurora, in Denver, in Colorado Springs, not like they're going to have a hard time finding the magazine."
Hickenlooper's office did not immediately return a request for comment from TPM on Thursday.
Watch the video (the high-capacity magazine question comes at 7:16):
(h/t Denver Post)