Obama's visit showcased a state with a long centrist tradition that prizes its Western frontier heritage. But an influx of young coastal transplants and growing Hispanic voter clout have helped Democrats win a string of victories in the state. Even before the Sandy Hook massacre energized gun control proponents, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said he was open to new gun control measures.
Colorado Republicans fought the new legislation, contending that Democrats overreached and will be punished by voters in November. Democrats contend that the measures are generally popular, especially among the suburban women who decide Colorado elections.
Several county sheriffs have vowed not to enforce the new gun restrictions. More than a dozen of them gathered a mile from Obama's appearance Wednesday to slam the new regulations as ineffective and unconstitutional.
Justin Smith, the sheriff of Larimer County, dismissed the visit as "a victory lap" and "a slap in the face to all Coloradans."
The Colorado Sheriffs Association vocally opposed the gun control package, while the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police supported it. Sheriffs are elected in Colorado and generally are Republican.
Several dozen gun supporters also booed Obama's motorcade as it arrived at the academy.
Obama's trip came a day after a study commissioned by the National Rifle Association, which opposes Obama's gun control measures, recommended that schools have trained, armed staffers to increase security for students. The American Federation of Teachers denounced the proposal.
There were signs that sweeping congressional efforts to address gun violence have flagged.
Key senators have been unable to reach a bipartisan compromise that would require federal background checks for gun transactions between private individuals. Federal background checks currently apply only to sales handled by licensed gun dealers.
After Denver, Obama was headed to San Francisco to attend fundraisers Wednesday and Thursday for Democratic Party organizations.
Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi in Denver, and Darlene Superville and Alan Fram in Washington contributed to this report.
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