As expected, Republican efforts to repeal a law that limits ammunition magazine rounds failed in majority Democrat legislative committees last week.
But one of the hearings produced unexpected comments from a lawmaker who would end up having to do some damage control over his remarks concerning events that took place during the 2012 Aurora theater shooting.
Sen. Bernie Herpin, R-Colorado Springs, told the Senate's State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Feb. 12 that it may have been a “good thing” that Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes was carrying a 100-round ammunition magazine because it jammed.
“If he had instead had four, five, six 15-round magazines, no telling how much damage he could have done until a good guy showed up,” Herpin told committee members.
Herpin was trying to make the point that larger capacity magazines are unreliable and that fewer people were killed or injured because Holmes' weapon jammed. He later apologized for coming across as being insensitive.
Herpin's comments were met with outrage by Tom Sullivan, the father of 27-year-old Alex Sullivan, who was one of 12 people who were killed in the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting.
“I've had a lot of thoughts since July 20, 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.
Herpin is a freshman senator who won a recall election against John Morse last fall. Morse, who at the time was Senate president, was one of three Democratic lawmakers who were either voted out of office or resigned in the face of recall elections over their votes on gun bills last year.
Herpin isn't the only lawmaker who has raised eyebrows for comments having to do with gun legislation. Last year, Rep. Joe Salazar and then-Sen. Evie Hudak, both Democrats, made comments regarding rape and gun violence that, like Herpin's comments last week, made national headlines.
Herpin was in front of the committee to sponsor a bill that sought to repeal a law from last year that banned ammunition magazines from carrying more than 15 rounds.
The bill was one of two GOP-sponsored repeals that failed at the Legislature last week, each one falling on party-line votes in the Democrat-led General Assembly.
Two days earlier, a House committee rejected a separate effort sponsored by Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, which also sought to repeal the magazine limit law.
Holbert argued that limiting the number of rounds in a magazine is arbitrary and does nothing to promote public safety.
“This legislation doesn't make us safer,” Holbert said. “It doesn't limit a criminal's ability to do something monstrous. All it does is punish a law-abiding citizen.”
But Democrats and other supporters of magazine limits say the law saves lives because the fewer rounds that a killer can get off, the less damage they can cause.
The law was drafted in response to recent mass shootings like the one in Aurora and at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School the same year. Jane Dougherty's sister, Mary Sherlock, was a school psychologist who was killed during the Sandy Hook massacre.
“Twenty-six souls were lost in fewer than 11 minutes that Friday morning,” Dougherty said. “We hear over and over again about gun owners having their rights taken away from them. … I ask you, `What about my sister's rights?'”
In a nod to the ramifications from last year's recall efforts, Holbert tried to appeal to Democrats on the committee to seize the “political opportunity” by supporting his repeal bill.
“Are you willing to risk political capital?” Holbert said. “I ask you to please keep an open mind.”
But Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, took exception to Holbert's comments.
“I don't think we should be making a decision based on what's politically expedient or politically smart,” Foote said.