President Barack Obama appeared at the Denver Police Academy on Wednesday to make yet another public appeal for tougher federal gun laws in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
Of course, Obama’s choice to make a gun control speech in Colorado has special meaning because the Centennial State has it’s own tragic history with respect to mass shootings, namely Columbine High School in 1999 and the Aurora movie theater last August.
Moreover, the state legislature recently passed several gun control reforms – including a ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds and a law that requires universal background checks on all gun sales, even those made between private buyers and sellers – making Colorado, which is traditionally thought of as a pro-gun state, the poster child for what Obama considers to be “practical progress.”
“I’ve come to Denver today in particular because Colorado is proving a model of what’s possible,” said Obama, adding that, “There doesn’t have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights.”
While Obama made the usual comments about getting “weapons of war off our street,” a reference to Sen. Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban, he specifically touted the merits of universal background checks, arguably the centerpiece of his gun control agenda. Calling them “common sense,” he went on to argue that criminal background checks give sellers peace of mind.
“If you’re selling a gun wouldn’t you want to know who [sic] you’re selling it to? Wouldn’t you want to know? Wouldn’t you want in your conscience to know that the person you’re selling to isn’t going to commit a crime?”
He then followed it up by citing poll numbers that indicate widespread support for UBCs, despite more recent survey data that shows waning support for gun control.
“And, by the way, most gun owners — more than 80 percent — agree this makes sense. More than 70 percent of NRA members agree,” said Obama. “Ninety percent of the American people agree. So there’s no reason we can’t do this unless politics is getting in the way. There’s no reason we can’t do this.”
Lastly, the president dismissed the notion that the Senate’s UBC bill would create a government registry of law-abiding gun owners.
“If there are any folks who are out there right now who are gun owners, and you’ve been hearing that somehow somebody is taking away your guns, get the facts. We’re not proposing a gun registration system, we’re proposing background checks for criminals.”
Well, the truth is we don’t really know what the Senate is proposing because Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is charged with drafting a bipartisan version of the UBC bill, is still working on the details of the legislation. Will it include a registry? Will it demand that FFLs track private sales records only to be turned over to the government?
That’s all to be determined.
One other important point that Obama made during his speech was the critical role that law enforcement plays in influencing the debate over gun control:
And from the beginning of this effort, we’ve wanted law enforcement front and center in shaping this discussion and the reforms that emerge from it — because law enforcement lives this every day. Law enforcement are the first to see the terrible consequences of any kind of violence, certainly gun violence — lives lost, families broken, communities that are changed forever. They’re very often in the line of fire. The law enforcement knows what works and what doesn’t, and so we wanted that experience and that advice.
However, what Obama failed to mention was the growing number of sheriffs across the state that vehemently oppose the new gun laws to such an extent that some have even vowed not to enforce them.
For one reason or another, these sheriffs weren’t invited to the speech–but that didn’t stop them from voicing their opinion on the matter at a nearby park located approximately a mile from the Denver Police Academy campus where Obama delivered his remarks.
“The president, later today, hiding behind the walls of the Denver Police Academy, will surround himself with hand-picked audience of gun-control supports and police employees coerced to attend his political rally as he declares a victory along with Denver’s Governor, John Hickenlooper,” Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith told The Denver Post, at the midday rally.
El Paso Sheriff Terry Maketa blamed the governor and the president for “ram-rodding” the new gun control laws through the state legislature.
“Our governor has lied to the citizens of this state,” he said.