DENVER (AP) — Gun owners gathered outside Colorado's Capitol Wednesday as lawmakers convened inside with promises to take up gun-related measures this session.
About 100 protesters, many of them attracted by flyers they picked up at gun shows, waved signs calling on lawmakers to reject gun-control measures in response to mass shootings in Colorado and elsewhere last year. Inside, lawmakers were already talking about guns.
New Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino said in opening-day remarks that gun control would be debated. Two Senate Republicans introduced a bill allowing school employees to carry concealed weapons.
The gun protesters promised growing demonstrations if they fear gun rights could be curtailed.
Protester Richard Trujillo of Brighton pointed a finger at the Capitol and said, "We've got to get rid of all this talk."
Others waved "Don't Tread On Me" flags and signs for the 2nd Amendment and gun rights. Inside, lawmakers in favor of gun control gave reference to the protesters on the street.
"The Second Amendment is sacrosanct. But so is the First," Ferrandino said in his first speech as House speaker. "It is our right — and the time is right — to speak openly and honestly about how we can curb the gun violence that costs our communities far too many sons and daughters."
The rally came a day before the governor's annual State of the State address. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he wants lawmakers to debate gun control, but he hasn't elaborated on details. The governor raised the possibility of ammunition limits or other measures in an interview last month.
"When you look at what happened in Aurora, a great deal of that damage was from the large magazine on the AR-15 (rifle). I think we need to have that discussion and say, 'Where is this appropriate?'"
One AR-15 owner at the Wednesday rally, Theresa White of Estes Park, feared the Colorado Legislature may be poised to curb assault weapons.
"It's about keeping tyranny at bay, and for that you need military-style weapons," White said.
In Washington, Vice President Joe Biden met with shooting victims Wednesday and vowed federal gun-control change.
"We are not going to get caught up in the notion (that) unless we can do everything we're going to do nothing," Biden said.
Associated Press writer Ivan Moreno contributed to this report.
Senate Bill 9: http://bit.ly/ZInNGw