AURORA | The economy is still at the forefront of state and Congressional candidates’ minds, but some say they plan to take a more visible stance on gun issues in their campaigns after the July 20 theater shootings.
Joe Miklosi, Democratic candidate for Congressional District 6 which covers all of Aurora, said his stance on gun control hasn’t changed, but he’s prepared to answer questions from voters on the campaign trail about the issue in the wake of the shootings.
“There’s a lot of issues that voters are concerned about, but I think it’ll be higher in importance for some voters,” Miklosi said.
He is a proponent of reinstating the federal assault weapons manufacturing ban that was passed during former President Bill Clinton’s administration in 1994 and expired in 2004.
The assault weapons ban outlawed the production of weapons such as AR-15 rifles, one of which was allegedly used by the suspected gunman, James Holmes, and also prohibited most large capacity magazines.
“My stance has been pretty clear even before the tragedy, and (the incident) only reaffirmed it,” Miklosi said.
Miklosi’s website doesn’t have a page specifically dedicated to the issue of gun control. The issues he does address are: the economy, women’s rights, energy, education, health care and veterans. Miklosi’s campaign manager said they haven’t yet had talks about creating a page specifically devoted to Miklosi’s stance on gun policy.
Miklosi’s opponent, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, who did not respond to calls for comment on the issue, briefly addresses his stance on gun rights on his website.
“The right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed under the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution and must not be infringed upon by government at any level,” Coffman’s website says. “Congress needs to counter the dangerous efforts of special interest groups seeking to limit this right.”
Coffman did send a statement to the media on July 20 about the magnitude of the Aurora theater shootings that killed 12 and wounded 58, saying the violence was akin to a war zone.
“This was the type of violence that I would have expected when I served in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps but never here at home,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, said he’ll continue to campaign on issues like job creation and education, but he’ll also take a more visible stance on what he calls “crime control.”
“All those things are still the main priority but sometimes other circumstances demand that you also consider other things and work on other things, and this is one of those times,” said Perlmutter, who is the incumbent candidate in the race for Congressional District 7 against Republican Joe Coors.
Perlmutter said now is the time for a serious discussion at the Congressional level about reinstating the assault weapons ban in order to curb crime.
“If somebody wants a rifle for hunting or needs a weapon for personal protection, fine,” he said. “I just want to stop these mass murderers.”
He said he’s in the process of discussing other types of gun control policies with lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who is a Democrat from New York and also up for re-election this year.
Perlmutter’s campaign spokeswoman said the campaign plans to add a web page about Perlmutter’s solutions to gun violence as more concrete ideas emerge. Coors, Perlmutter’s opponent and a strong supporter of gun rights, was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in July, according to his campaign website.
“I trust Colorado’s gun owners and will work in Congress to ensure that they enjoy the freedom the Second Amendment guarantees, not less,” he said in a July release.
State Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, said she’s also willing to take a bolder stance on gun issues in her House District 42 campaign for re-election against Republican and self-described “Reagan Conservative” Michael Donald.
“I do want to explore what we can do so that another child and another person doesn’t have to be killed with a gun,” said Fields, whose son was killed in an Aurora shooting in 2005.
She said she was shocked to learn that the alleged shooter in the Aurora massacre stocked up on so many weapons and ammunition without anybody knowing or alerting authorities.
“There’s no intelligence that says, ‘red flag, danger, danger,’” she said.
Fields, who is running for re-election, said she hopes to look at what can be done to strengthen gun laws at the state level.
“I don’t know what can be done, but if there’s something I can do, I will give it serious consideration,” she said.
Donald did not respond to calls for comment.
Political analyst Floyd Ciruli said he’s doubtful that the gun issue will play a large part in political campaigns at the state and Congressional level.
“There will be short-term discussion, but the issue will fade fairly quickly,” he said.
Republicans like Coffman may have to craft their pro-gun stances carefully in the wake of the shootings, he said.
“I do think there is a little more burden on him because of the fact that it happened in his district,” he said.
Despite the shootings, Democratic candidates might find it hard to gain traction on gun control, Ciruli said.
National polls show that support for gun rights has increased over the years, and support for gun control has decreased, he said.
“In general, at least up until this point, there has not been an outpouring for support on gun control,” he said.