After a deadly week that saw two separate mass shootings on different sides of the country, Congress is considering gun reform. This is just the latest chapter in years-long battles over gun rights in America which have often split down party lines. Senator John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) said in the wake of the latest loss of life, it shouldn't be hard for members of the GOP to agree that gun reform is necessary.
"I don't know what to say. How could we not have 60 votes or 65 or 70 votes on universal background checks? Obviously, I'm going to work hard on that, and if we can't get to 60 votes, we'll have to look at what are our choices," he told Cheddar, leaving open the door for filibuster reform while stating it wasn't useful for him to threaten getting rid of the controversial procedure.
Meanwhile, just days before the March 22 shooting in Hickenlooper's own state, Boulder County District Court Judge Andrew Hartman ruled that Colorado cities cannot implement their own gun restrictions. The ruling overturned a city ban on the sale and possession of assault weapons first instituted in 2018 after a former student killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Colorado has seen its share of gun tragedies from Columbine to Boulder. For Hickenlooper, this week's shooting at a grocery store was a stark reminder of the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora that claimed the lives of 12 people and wounded 70 others.
"I still have some level of trauma. Now we're back again. A supermarket, the people brutally killed, and the trauma for everyone there, for their families, for the whole community, for the whole state. I think, in a way, these mass killings are trauma for the whole country," he said.
Hickenlooper was serving as Colorado's governor at the time of that shooting.
The senator said he understands that convincing Republicans to get on board with gun reform legislation will be a difficult task but he hopes he can help convince some of his colleagues to at least support universal background checks so that people disqualified from owning firearms due to mental health concerns or a history of violence cannot legally access them.
"In all we've had over 3,000 people that had violent felonies that tried to buy guns and we stopped them. That's a lot of people in a relatively small population state," Hickenlooper said.
"I think if you take those statistics, and you go to other states like Arizona or Georgia or Wisconsin or Florida and you show people in that state that by universal background checks, you are clearly keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, I think most people will support that,"
Though Democrats currently hold the majority in the U.S. Senate, when it comes to making progress on potential bills, the filibuster is still a hurdle the group needs to clear. However, for the Colorado senator, threatening to get rid of it isn't the best approach when it comes to making effective gun legislation changes.
"I think that universal background checks is a good place to start because, again, we passed universal background checks and limited magazine capacity and several other gun safety legislations, and once we got background checks passed, I mean the approval just continued to rise," he explained. "The last poll I saw in Colorado, 92 percent of all adults support universal background checks."