Hickenlooper Touts Plan to Stem Gun Violence

Democratic presidential hopeful John Hickenlooper hugs Colorado state Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, during a meeting with survivors of victims of mass shootings in Denver on April 16. Fields lost her son and his fiancee in a shooting in 2005. (AP photo/David Zalubowski)

(CN) – Over a month ago, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper invited the press’ microphones and flashbulbs along when he met with parents and daughters who lost family members to gun violence. Instead of stealing the show with broad-stroke solutions, Hickenlooper folded up his notes and let three people share stories about their loved ones and support for increased mental health services.

On Wednesday, the 2020 presidential hopeful released his 22-part plan to reduce gun violence in the United States. The policies range from requiring training to obtain gun licenses to expanding school safety networks and more funding for mental health services. 

“We beat the @NRA in CO, and we can do it nationally,” Hickenlooper said via Twitter. “Here’s my plan to prevent gun violence: gun licensing standard, raise purchase age to 21, universal background checks, ban weapons of war, magazine limits, fund CDC research on gun violence.”

Looking at 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallied 39,773 gun deaths, two-thirds of which were suicides – a national force Hickenlooper likens to a “health epidemic.”

If elected, Hickenlooper vowed to expand violence prevention programs through grant-funded local initiatives and national policy. One step would expand Colorado’s anonymous Safe 2 Tell hotline program, and creating a “national program to train and support school- and community-based threat assessment teams.”

Between the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February 2018, then Colorado-Gov. Hickenlooper signed legislation banning first high-capacity magazines and later bump stocks. He supported background universal background checks and an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill when introduced.

The bill, which allows a court to remove weapons from individuals believed risks to themselves and others, was defeated in 2018 before being reintroduced this year and signed by current Gov. Jared Polis.

Colorado is one of 14 states to adopt a “red flag” law, one of many policies Hickenlooper would like to see applied nationwide.

These laws, Hickenlooper wrote, “aren’t just a way to stop mass shootings. Studies have shown that they are an effective tool at reducing suicides. Extreme Risk Protection Order laws give loved ones a civil option to intervene on warning signs and prevent tragedies from occurring.”

In the context of two dozen other Democrats vying for the presidential nomination, stances on gun policy may prove to be an issue on which individuals will stand out. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, for example, supports firearm background checks but backs “a middle-ground” approach to gun control that favors state-led regulation.

Front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden led Barak Obama’s “Gun Violence Prevention Task Force,” which supported but failed to enact universal background checks.

Some gun reform groups responded favorably to Hickenlooper’s pledge, including the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

“The Hickenlooper plan makes clear that he’s serious about reducing gun violence—it will cut shootings and protect our kids,” the group’s executive director Peter Ambler tweeted in support. “It’s also clear he understands the political power of this issue w/ the primary electorate and in key swing states like Colorado.”

The National Rifle Association did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

As a purple state governor, Hickenlooper holds up his gun legislation as a testament to his ability to work across the aisle and generate bipartisan support – an underlying issue in an ever-divided nation.

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