Colorado Prepares for All-Out Gun Fight

New demographics, Democratic majority makes gun fight hotter in Colorado.

President Barack Obama embraces Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper as Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) look on during a visit to the University of Colorado Hospital July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado.

President Obama embraces Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper as Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) look on at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colo., July 22, 2012.

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Colorado's state legislature is the stage where one of nation's fiercest gun debates will unfold.

A state with a strong tradition of sport shooting and hunting, Colorado is also home to two of the country's deadliest mass shootings.

Recently state legislators have introduced bills on everything from universal background checks, to limiting high-capacity magazines over 10 rounds, to holding gun manufacturers and dealers liable if their products fall into dangerous hands—a bill that actually runs counter to current federal law, which protects gun makers and sellers.

"It's going to be a hard fought and nasty battle," says Tom Mauser, a gun-control activist whose son Daniel was killed at Columbine High School. "The linchpin is that Colorado's been home to two of the worst massacres and the demographics of the state are really changing."

[PICTURES: The Gun Control Debate, in Plain English]

In 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 at Columbine High School. In July 2012, James Holmes allegedly wounded 58 and killed 12 at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

In the more than a decade since Columbine, activists on both sides of the gun debate, say the political landscape of the once-Republican state has shifted dramatically. After Columbine, Colorado voters saw one new piece of gun legislation. Residents voted to close the gun show loophole in the state. But after a year where a movie theater and elementary school shooting shook the nation, it looks as if the state could be on the verge of passing a more sweeping collection of gun-control bills.

Colorado is a swing state now—President Barack Obama won there in 2012 and both state houses and the governor's mansion are controlled by Democrats.

The state's Hispanic population—a constituency that tends to favor stronger gun-control laws—has steadily climbed from 17 percent in 2000 to nearly 21 percent in 2010.

[ENJOY: Political Cartoons About Gun Control]

And out of staters have fled to Denver, one of the country's fastest growing cities.

A Denver Post poll in January showed more than 60 percent of Coloradans supported background checks, limiting high-capacity magazines and banning some types of semi-automatic weapons. While residents still back the National Rifle Association, with 56 percent saying they still see the group favorably.

The state's mixed feelings on guns trickle into the Democratic Party, which will choose just how far the state goes on controlling come semi-automatic weapons. Many Democratic lawmakers hail from suburban or rural swing districts where gun rights are still important to constituents.

And the Democrats are not yet on the same page.

"The Democratic party has tried to avoid the gun issue in Colorado for quite some time. They tinker on the margins," says Dudley Brown, the executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a pro-gun group that opposes semi-automatic weapon bans and universal background checks. "They are not a monolithic group."

[READ: How to Protect Yourself in a Mass Shooting]

Democratic Colorado State Rep. Rhonda Fields of Aurora is at the forefront of the fight to curb gun violence. The legislator, whose son was gunned down in 2005, introduced a new series of gun laws this week.

But some, like Democratic Colorado State Rep. Ed Vigil, opposes new gun bills that limit military-style weapons, telling the Denver Post that he did not believe they would stop criminals.

Even Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper remains vague on which gun-control measures he can support.

In a State of State state address last month, Hickenlooper focused his attention on strengthening mental health services and announced his support for universal background checks, but restricting some semi-automatic weapons was not part of his message.

Hickenlooper has been careful to wade into the debate slowly and involve gun-right heavyweights in the conversations. He met with National Rifle Association president David Keene Thursday.

"While we might not agree on a number of things, there will certainly be places we can find common ground," Hickenlooper said in a statement after the meeting.