Obama Tries To Rally Support For Gun Control Laws In Colorado

President Obama is scheduled to make remarks about guns in Denver on Wednesday. Colorado has stepped up on both background checks and limits on ammunition magazines, and Democrats there fear backlash next year.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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President Obama flew to Colorado this afternoon to rally support for national gun control laws. Colorado recently passed its own laws requiring background checks for all gun purchases and limiting the size of ammunition magazines. In Denver, the president delivered a speech and met with local law enforcement officials and community activists.

NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now from Denver. And, Scott, is the president looking to show Colorado as a kind of model for the rest of the country?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, he is holding up action by this state's Democratic legislature saying, if a Western state like Colorado can adopt universal background checks and limits on ammunition magazines, why can't Congress?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Look, this is a state that has suffered the tragedy of two of the worst mass shootings in our history. Fourteen years ago this month in Columbine, and just last year in Aurora. But this is also a state that treasures its Second Amendment rights. The state of proud hunters and sportsmen.

HORSLEY: Now, next week the president will travel to Connecticut where the legislature is also moving forward on gun control legislation. Connecticut, of course, suffered its own horrific mass shooting last year at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

CORNISH: And even in Colorado, I take it, these new laws are controversial.

HORSLEY: Well, they didn't pass without a fight. Colorado has a vigorous gun lobbying group, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, and they have vowed political payback against lawmakers who voted for the new laws. Only one of Colorado's two Democratic senators attended the president's event today. We've also seen some county sheriffs in Colorado speaking out against gun control legislation.

And on his way into town today, the president passed a small group of protesters who were holding up signs saying things like: Stop taking our rights.

CORNISH: Now, polls show broad support for universal background checks, for example, 90 percent in most polls and high even among gun owners. But this hasn't necessarily translated into support in Congress. So what's happening there?

HORSLEY: Well, that's right. Here in Colorado, a Denver Post poll found more than 80 percent support for universal background checks. But this is one of those issues where opponents may be in the minority, but they have very strong feelings. They are worried that background checks are just a first step towards registering guns and eventually having the government confiscate them.

The president tried hard to allay those concerns today. But even though opponents are in the minority, they tend to vote with single-minded focus. And that has a lot of lawmakers in Washington running scared. President Obama himself acknowledged today that opponents of gun control are well-organized and well-financed.

CORNISH: So what does the president hope to accomplish with events like this one in Denver?

HORSLEY: Well, he's trying to get soft supporters of gun control to speak up in the same loud voices as the opponents. You saw that last week when he spoke at the White House, surrounded by some of the family members who lost loved ones to gun violence. And he's delivering a similar message here in Colorado. He's, in particular, pointing to lawmakers in this purple state as leading the way for lawmakers in D.C.

CORNISH: Scott, thank you.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Audie.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley, speaking with us from Denver.

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