Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton) repeated on the record he is firm in his commitment of wanting to strike a compromise that would expand Colorado’s limits on ammunition magazines from 15 rounds to 30. But he also said, he believes the organization Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) will never allow that compromise to happen.
Salazar’s idea was first floated when the conservative blog “Revealing Politics” published video in which Salazar said he was open to 30-round magazines.
In 2013, the Colorado General Assembly passed a contentious bill prohibiting the sale or possession of magazines holding more than 15 rounds.* The bill was later signed that spring by Governor Hickenlooper. It’s widely believed the majority of market demand is for magazines with a capacity of 30 or lower.
“I’ve spoken with the RMGO lobbyist, and I want to be very clear about this: He’s a really good guy,” Salazar continued by phone on Thursday. “It’s my sense, however, that his client (RMGO) is not willing to negotiate, has drawn a line in the sand in terms of lifting the limit from 15 to 30.”
“I can only go based off of my understanding,” Salazar said later in the interview. “My understanding is that RMGO is actually preventing 30-round magazines from becoming legal. For them, it’s all or nothing.”
RMGO Political Director Joe Neville confirmed those notions. While saying he’d prefer to comment only on bill language which he has read, Neville still drew a hard line. “We’re no compromise. We want to see the mag ban repealed outright. We believe that it’s not up to the legislature to decide how many rounds someone needs to protect themselves against tyranny no matter how big or small that tyranny is.”
Neville is related to two Republican members of the General Assembly. His father Tim serves in the Senate, and brother Patrick serves in the House.
If a bill were to be run, it would first have to achieve “late bill” status, which can only come from the leadership of either chamber. Since Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) has indicated to her caucus she will not consider any late bills at all, Salazar said he’s hopeful to see a late bill emerge from the Republican-controlled Senate.
RMGO has long been a powerhouse of political influence in the state, with membership numbers and dues that allow the organization to “primary” incumbents with whom they disagree. Their Facebook page is further evidence of their clout, boasting more than 190,000 likes.
Salazar said he is not certain of how leadership in the Democrat-controlled House would react to a compromise because, as he maintains, they’re not willing to speculate on a late bill that may or may not be produced by the GOP Senate. Furthermore, Salazar said he has no inkling on whether Governor Hickenlooper might be amenable to such a compromise.
Neville, on the other hand, suggested Salazar was promoting the idea of increasing magazine capacity now in an effort to make amends for his previous votes on gun issues. “I could easily see how he’d want to try to gain cover for his bad actions in the past. And we’re just going to make it clear that any compromise is not acceptable, and he (Salazar) just needs to vote for repeal outright,” Neville said.
Hickenlooper’s signing of the 15-round magazine limit bill was controversial for dozens of reasons, not least of which were awkward statements the Governor made in the summer of 2014 when he addressed a gathering of most of the state’s sheriffs. “I think, uh, a lot of people, if they’d known how much commotion was going to come out of the high capacity magazines would’ve, probably would’ve looked for something different, looked for a different approach,” Hickenlooper told the Sheriffs in 2014.
A recent report by the Fort Collins Coloradoan found that the batch of gun laws passed in 2013 (including the lower limit on magazine capacity) “are mostly unenforceable and have done little to nothing to attain bill sponsors’ goals, according to gun rights’ advocates and statewide data.”
*The law grandfathered in magazines of higher capacity if they were already legally owned by the gun owner.