Gov. John Hickenlooper took on the issue of gun regulations in his State of the State speech Thursday, calling for universal background checks for all gun purchases.
In his third such address to the legislature, Hickenlooper, a Democrat, called for a moment of silence in the House chamber to remember the victims of the Aurora shooting massacre and said Coloradans "have an obligation to prevent similar tragedies." The mayor, police chief and fire chief of Aurora were present for the governor's annual address.
"Some point to guns, others to a violent culture," Hickenlooper said. "Still others believe that the line between community security and individual freedom must be re-drawn.
"We shouldn't be restrained from discussing any of these issues. Our democracy demands this type of debate. Let me prime the pump: Why not have universal background checks for all gun sales?"
While there are background checks required for retail sales of guns and for those purchased at gun shows, the checks are not required for private sales between individuals. Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, has proposed legislation to require checks in such instances.
The governor said while the conversation wouldn't be easy, gun rights supporters and advocates for tougher gun restrictions can surely find common ground on one issue.
"Let's examine our laws and make the changes needed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people," Hickenlooper said. "It's not enough to prevent dangerous people from getting weapons.
"We ask you to pass legislation that will update civil commitment laws, make it easier to identify people with mental illness who are a danger to themselves and others and provide safer, more humane systems for their treatment."
The governor's calls for attempts to prevent the mentally ill from gun ownership drew bipartisan applause in the chamber, but Republicans sat silently while Democrats stood and cheered for Hickenlooper's call for universal checks.
"I was really disappointed with this notion that I have do background checks if I want to sell a gun of mine or give a gun of mine to my son," said Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray. "I don't know how he plans to do that and that t causes me great concern. The rest of it was fine. Just what we expected."
The governor also called for cooperation on crafting a framework of regulations for the limited sale and possession of marijuana, which voters legalized in November.
"We are determined to implement this new law in a way the promotes the health and safety of all Coloradans," he said.
Hickenlooper called on lawmakers to work together on expanding Medicaid eligibility, something which the legislature must authorize spending for. Republicans, now in the minority in both chambers, adamantly oppose the expansion.
And the Democratic governor dismissed suggestions that he'd had a honeymoon for his first two years, when a divided legislature kept many controversial issues from ever coming to his desk.
"They say I got lucky — but I don't see it that way," Hickenlooper said. "Our blessing was not divided government in the last two years; Our blessing was in the many relationships we formed with lawmakers from both parties — and that you have with each other.
The former brewpub owner concluded, "These relationships endure. They span the geography of our state and they transcend political affiliation. And they've been nourished by our working together — helped along every once in a while by a cold Colorado beer."