In Colorado's 7th District, Gun Rights Once Again Takes Center Stage

Candidates with two histories on gun rights battle it out in Colorado's 7th District.


In Aurora, which sits just 17 miles away from Littleton, Colo., the site of the horrifying 1999 Columbine shooting, gun violence once again takes center stage in a congressional election.

And no issue stands a chance of crystallizing the race more than the debate over the need for an assault weapon ban back on many Coloradans' minds. [Who is James Holmes?]

"Unfortunately this is a recurring nightmare a lot of these folks are living through," says Brian Malte, the director for legislation for the Brady Campaign, an organization committed to ending gun violence.

James Holmes, the man police have in custody for the crime, used three weapons: an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a Remmington 870 12-gauge shotgun, and a 40 caliber Glock handgun to carry out his attack during a midnight viewing of newest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises."

Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who represents the 7th District where the shooting took place, once ran for Congress on the promise that he would reinstate the ban on high capacity rifles when he was elected in 2006. But so far a review of legislative records shows he has yet to act on that promise.

"I am stunned and furious at the news of the shooting at the Aurora Century 16 movie theater this morning," Perlmutter said in a release following the incident. "Colorado is not a violent place, but we have some violent people."

And although the city of Aurora was selected by Forbes Magazine as one of the safest in the U.S., Perlmutter ran an effective campaign in 2006 against his opponent Peggy Lamm largely on her cozy relationship with the gun lobby. Congressman Perlmutter once supported the reauthorization of the Clinton gun banand has opposed the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act, which requires states to honor the concealed handgun permits of people visiting from other states. But six years later, Perlmutter has yet to bring an assault weapons ban law to the Congress—and several other bans introduced his colleagues have failed.

"We certainly knew we endorsed him in 2006 with the knowledge that he was going to stand up for these issues. He hasn't and now is the time," the Brady Campaign's Malte says. "We look forward to him stepping up to the plate."

When asked if the Congressman has any immediate plans to introduce legislation supporting a new assault weapons ban, Perlmutter's spokeswoman Leslie Oliver says the congressman's immediate concern is to assist families and the loved ones of victims after the tragedy. She says, however, the congressman has consistently supported legislation preventing the sale of assault weapons.

The issue is sensitive one in Colorado, where recreational shooting and hunting are popular.

However, in 2000, Coloradans voted bar individuals from buying firearms at gun shows without background checks. [Read: Tweets From Victims, Survivors During The Shooting]

Perlmutter faces a tough re-election against beer mogul Adolph Coors' grandson Joe Coors, who according to FEC reports has already raised $1.2 million in his campaign.

Coors, like Lamm before him, also has earned a strong endorsement from the National Rifle Association.

"Joe Coors is committed to protecting our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage," Chris W. Cox, chairman of NRA-PVF, said in a statement. "Because of his strong support of our rights ... we urge all NRA members and gun owners in Colorado's 7th District to vote Joe Coors."

And Coors says taking guns away from lawful owners won't do much to stop gun violence.

"My opponent seems to think that taking guns away from the good guys will keep the bad guys from getting them," Coors wrote in a statement thanking the NRA for their endorsement. "Unlike my opponent, I trust Colorado's gun owners and will work in Congress to ensure that they enjoy the freedom the Second Amendment guarantees, not less."