Romer wins partial victory in special session to address waive of violence | A LOOK BACK

Gun Rights

Forty Years Ago This Week: After several months facing discontent from critics within the General Assembly, Gov. Roy Romer opened a special session he called with a speech to both legislative chambers, appealing to lawmakers to pass at least some of his 14-point plan as a “first step” toward dealing with an explosion in youth violence around the state.

Romer did not waste the opportunity of his high profile speech to blast the “Eastern lobbyists of the NRA” who were “not in touch with Colorado.”

“You’re dead wrong on this issue. Get out of our way,” Romer exclaimed.

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Present in the House chamber for the speech was Jim Brady, former White House press secretary, who had been partially paralyzed after being shot in the head during an attempted assassination of former President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Brady had also spoken at an anti-gun rally in Denver, sponsored by PUNCH (People United, No Children’s Handguns).

The special session proceeded and after several days of hard graft, House Bill 93-1001, largely drafted by Attorney General Gale Norton, was passed. The measure prohibited anyone under 18 from possessing a handgun and penalized adults who furnished them. Nearly all legislators, lobbying groups and their stakeholders, including the National Rifle Association, PUNCH, and Denver Mayor Wellington Webb were on board with the bill.

But the legislation had its dissenters. A group of rural sheriffs argued that the problem belonged solely to the Denver metro area and the rest of Colorado needn’t be penalized for it.

Largely described as the Republicans answer to Romer’s “iron fist” proposal, which came in the form of SB 93-10 sponsored by state Sen. Don Mares, D-Denver, and state Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver. There was in fact little difference between HB 93-1001 and SB 93-10.

Before Romer signed the bill into law, it was amended to include language from other special session bills, and the result Romer said was, “truly bipartisan.”

For a first offense of the new law, juveniles would be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor including a possible year in jail and a $1,000 fine. A second offense would be a Class 5 felony with three years in jail or a $100,000 fine. Any adult found to have furnished a handgun to a juvenile would be charged with a Class 5 felony with a fine of $500,000 and a six-year jail sentence.

But Romer did not succeed in passing the one portion of the legislative package that he was most passionate about — the Youthful Offender System (YOS) for dangerous offenders between 14 and 18, which would have included a 300-bed prison.

Twenty Years Ago: Businesswoman and Democrat Joanna Conti called on her fellow 6th Congressional District residents to join her in the fight to “get the country back on the right track” as she announced a bid for the congressional seat.

Conti said that in her conversations with Coloradans, she’d heard over and over their concerns about the economy, sky-rocketing budget deficits, people who’d lost their jobs and lack of affordable health care.

“I think most of us reach a point once or twice in our lives where the issues are so overwhelmingly important that we have to make a stand for what we feel is right,” Conti said. “Regardless of the cost. That time has come for me.”

A self-described “international businesswoman,” Conti also said that the United State’s reputation had suffered after its strategic attack on Iraq without the support and backing of the United Nations.

“Coloradans are also concerned about Republicans in D.C. weakening environmental laws and opening up wilderness areas to unnecessary logging,” Conti said.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo had not officially announced that he would run for reelection, but Republican U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, made a unexpected announcement that he wouldn’t seek reelection — prompting a flurry of activity among Republican hopefuls.

Rachael Wright is the author of the Captain Savva Mystery series, with degrees in Political Science and History from Colorado Mesa University, and is a contributing writer to Colorado Politics and The Gazette.

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