Aurora theater shooting: Latino officials backing Obama respond to gun control debate
The thorny political territory of gun control can be especially challenging for President Barack Obama's cheerleaders in Colorado, where debates about access to guns have great local significance after James Holmes shot seventy people in an Aurora movie theater. Since the attack, Obama has called for a "common sense" approach to assault rifle sales -- though some argue it's not enough. What do Obama's Latino surrogates and supporters in Colorado have to say about it?
Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have gotten pressure from the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition and local advocates in Colorado to offer more concrete policy solutions to the country's problem of gun violence.
Yet gun control remains a touchy subject politically, raising fears that a call for stricter gun laws will directly lead to a loss of votes -- a tension that's strong in Colorado, a key swing state that has experienced a terrible mass shooting just months before the presidential election. Note the story of concealed-carry advocate James Mapes, who was arrested in a Thornton movie theater this past weekend after other patrons saw his gun.
Sam Levin Federico Pena at Latinos for Obama lunch on Saturday.
Here's a piece of what Obama had to say on gun control last Wednesday, five days after the shooting, while speaking at the National Urban League convention in New Orleans:
I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. I think we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation. That hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage. But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals. That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun owners would agree we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons, and we should check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun seller.
At Obama campaign events over the weekend, Westword asked some of the elected officials campaigning for the president what they thought of these debates and whether the president has done enough.
Unsurprisingly, they are generally supportive -- though it's an issue that these politicians likely approach with great caution. (Governor Gov. John Hickenlooper had little to say about gun policy immediately following the tragedy).
Former Denver Mayor Federico Peña, who is also an Obama for America national campaign co-chair, told us he agrees with what the president has said so far.
"A conversation on gun policy needs to happen," Peña said at a Latinos for Obama lunch on Saturday afternoon. "What the president has said is he's been pushing the Congress, the current sitting Congress, to do more on background checks, and they're not doing anything. Because he feels if we can do a better job on background checks, we can hopefully catch people who have mental illness.... Those are the kinds of things we need to have a conversation about. The president has said we ought to have that and, in fact, he has been pushing the Congress to do more."
It's worth noting that Ed Perlmutter, the local congressman who represents Aurora, has called for stricter gun policies in the wake of the shooting, making him one of the first local elected officials to do so.
Page down to read comments on gun control from other Colorado supporters of Obama.