Colorado governor backpedals on gun-control laws he signed

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told a sheriffs' group that he did not fully vet gun-control bills that he signed into law.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told a sheriffs’ group that he did not fully vet gun-control bills that he signed into law.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The pedaling is set on reverse these days in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office after he told a group of Colorado sheriffs last week that he regretted not fully vetting the state’s gun-control laws — measures he once championed.

Then Hickenlooper, a Democrat running for reelection, dropped the F-bomb as he tried to charm a tough crowd. Many of the state’s sheriffs have been deeply critical of the gun-control measures as unenforceable and overstepping the U.S. Constitution.

“What the [expletive]?” Hickenlooper asked Larimer Sheriff Justin Smith, who was pressing him on the matter at the June 13 meeting of the County Sheriffs of Colorado in Aspen.

Smith said the governor then told him he had already apologized to the group. “He acted like he just wanted our questions to go away,” Smith told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.


Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell said Hickenlooper admitted he “should have done more research” on the measures and listened to the sheriffs’ concerns before signing them into law. The governor told the group he felt obligated to push for the bill because a staff member had promised he would, according to both Smith and Spruell.

“So we were performing legislation without basic facts, which I think is a bad idea in every case,” Hickenlooper told the sheriffs according to a Facebook post by Spruell.

Spruell posted to his office’s Facebook page during the speech. At last count it has received more than 97,000 hits, he said.

Calls for comment from Hickenlooper’s office were not immediately returned Friday. A spokesman for the governor told the Denver Post this week that Spruell’s Facebook posts were inaccurate.


Spokesman Eric Brown also told the Post that the governor misspoke at the meeting when he told the sheriffs he had not spoken with New York City Michael R. Bloomberg about the gun laws. Brown said Hickenlooper talked to Bloomberg, a major proponent of gun control, as well as gun-rights groups.

Last year, pushed by Hickenlooper and in part a response to the 2012 Aurora movie theater massacre that killed 12 and wounded 70, the Colorado General Assembly passed a series of gun-control measures to limit the sale of high-capacity magazine clips and increase background checks.

Although gun-control supporters across the country applauded the measures, not everyone in Colorado was pleased. A group of sheriffs tried to sue the state over the laws, two state senators who supported the measures lost their seats in a recall election and a handful of counties considered seceding.