President Barack Obama talked about gun violence during a speech in Denver on April 3, while lauding recent gun-control measures that have been signed into state law, and touting Colorado as being “a model of what's possible” at the national level.
The president's remarks at the Denver Police Academy highlighted gun laws that soon will go into effect in the state, including those that institute universal background checks on gun sales and place limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Citing recent massacres like last year's shootings in Aurora and in Connecticut, Obama said it's now time for Congress to take up similar gun measures for implementation at the national level.
“Every day that we wait to do something about it, even more of our fellow citizens are stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun,” Obama said.
In Colorado, gun-control bills have dominated headlines this legislative session. So far, Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed three bills that have passed the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
Republicans scoff that the gun measures are nothing but “feel-good” efforts that only hinder law-abiding citizens' ability to obtain guns, while doing nothing to get the weapons out of the hands of criminals.
Obama's visit was met with some protests outside the police academy. And, earlier in the day, several Colorado sheriffs held a press event, denouncing further gun-control efforts.
But Obama sees value in passing gun measures. He said that Congress needs to address the loopholes in the current national gun-background check system, the same way that Colorado legislators have done with recent legislation here.
Obama said that if a person wants to buy a gun, “you should at least have to go through a background check to show that you're not a criminal, or someone legally prohibited from buying one.”
The president cited statistics that indicate background checks often do keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
“So, this does work,” he said. “And, by the way, if you're selling a gun, wouldn't you want to know who you're selling it to? Wouldn't you want in your conscience to know that the person you're selling to isn't going to commit a crime?”
Obama also said high-capacity ammunition magazines have no place in our communities.
“I don't believe that weapons designed for theaters of war have a place in movie theaters,” he said to applause. “Most Americans agree with that.”
The president acknowledged the polarizing nature that surrounds the gun-control debate. He said that Colorado is a state where hunting is a tradition, and where guns are “handed down from generation to generation.”
“And they treat gun ownership with reverence and respect,” he said.
At the same time, Obama said it's important for people to understand where the other side is coming from on these issues.
“There doesn't have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights,” the president said.
Among those who attended the speech were Hickenlooper and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The two took part in a round-table discussion on gun issues that involved Obama, prior to the president's speech. Others taking part in the discussion were police and Colorado citizens whose lives have been affected by gun violence.
Several state legislators also were attendance, including Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. Fields – whose son was shot to death in 2005 and who sponsored some of the state's gun legislation – said she felt that her work has been validated by Obama's trip.
“I feel really good about what we did here in the state of Colorado,” Fields told reporters. “And I think the rest of the nation should follow suit.”