In Colorado, Obama Pushes For Gun Control

President Obama was in Colorado Wednesday to highlight the state's gun control efforts as a model of what is possible for the country. Obama plans to visit Connecticut next week, to highlight that state's efforts.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Thursday, it's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. In the early hours of this morning, Connecticut lawmakers approved gun legislation. They call it the most sweeping gun control measure in the country.

INSKEEP: Lawmakers in Connecticut approved background checks on all gun sales. They voted to ban the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines, and also to ban more than 100 types of previously legal weapons. This state action comes as Congress and President Obama continue debating federal gun laws.

GREENE: The president is pointing to state efforts as a model for the nation. In particular, he highlighted Colorado, which has enacted its own gun measures. The president visited Colorado yesterday. From Denver, here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: It was the December shooting death of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School that pushed gun control to the top of the president's agenda. Yesterday, Obama noted that in the four months since that massacre, more than 2,000 more Americans have been murdered with firearms.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Every day that we wait to do something about it, even more of our fellow citizens are stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. Now, the good news is Colorado has already chosen to do something about it.

HORSLEY: Colorado lawmakers responded to the Sandy Hook shooting and last year's movie theater massacre in this state by requiring background checks for all gun purchases and limiting the size of ammunition magazines. Listening to the president yesterday, Karen Woods said she's proud of her home state and of Connecticut, where lawmakers are also advancing tough new gun control measures.

KAREN WOODS: The two states with the worst mass shootings have made great strides in gun reform legislation, and we'll lead the way.

HORSLEY: Obama plans to visit Connecticut next week to highlight that state's efforts. He says the new laws in Colorado are noteworthy because this is a Western state, with a tradition of hunting and gun ownership.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

OBAMA: I've got stacks of letters in my office from proud gun owners - whether they're for sport or protection or collection - who tell me how deeply they cherish their rights, don't want them infringed upon, but they still want us to do something to stop the epidemic of gun violence.

HORSLEY: Obama spoke at the Denver police academy, surrounded by blue-uniformed officers. But law enforcement here is not united. More than a dozen sheriffs held a news conference yesterday to protest the new laws. Justin Smith, the Sheriff of Larimer County, says more gun control is not the answer.

SHERIFF JUSTIN SMITH: What hasn't worked in cities like Washington, D.C., Chicago, will not work in Fort Collins, Colorado.

HORSLEY: Obama acknowledged that a big obstacle in addressing gun violence is a lack of trust and understanding between those who see guns as a weapon for crime - often in big cities - and those who might live in rural areas and rely on guns for hunting or protection.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

OBAMA: And we had a couple of sportsmen in our conversation today, and I thought one of them said something very important. He said: All my experiences with guns have been positive. But I realize that for others, all their experiences about guns have been negative. Well, that's a start, right? If we start listening to each other, then we should be able to get something done that's constructive.

HORSLEY: Polls show widespread public support for some gun control measures, especially universal background checks. But the president acknowledged getting a bill through Congress will not be easy. Sandra Moses knows that all too well.

SANDRA MOSES: What are they afraid of? They being our politicians, who are fathers, brothers.

HORSLEY: Moses has been advocating stricter gun control for more than 25 years, ever since her son Steven was killed during a random shooting in San Francisco. He was 23 at the time, an aspiring art student. His self-portrait hangs in the entryway of his mother's Denver home.

MOSES: That's what I have left.

HORSLEY: For Moses, the gun control debate in Colorado and Washington has been long and mostly frustrating. Sometimes she comes home from a hearing and crawls under the covers, feeling the same as she did on the day she learned of her son's death. And yet, she says, she keeps pushing.

MOSES: I do, because I loved Steven. And he'd be so disappointed in me if I wasn't courageous enough to speak out.

HORSLEY: Obama told his audience in Denver yesterday it will take more such voices to make a difference when the Senate takes up gun control next week. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Denver.

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