Colorado suffered two of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history — at Columbine high school in 1999 and at a movie theater in Aurora last year. It recently expanded background checks for gun purchases and placed restrictions on ammunition magazines.
Prospects for passage of similar measures by Congress appear bleak, largely because of concerns by conservative Republicans and moderate Democrats who come down more on the side of gun rights.
Obama said there is a middle ground.
“Colorado has shown that practical progress is possible,” he said. “We’ve seen enacted tougher background checks that won’t infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners, but will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”
Obama met with 19 law enforcement officers, activists and elected officials at the Denver Police Academy, not far from Aurora, where 12 people were killed in the movie theater shooting. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for James Holmes, the accused shooter.
Among those participating in the discussion with Obama was Sandy Phillips, whose 24-year-old daughter, Jessica Redfield Ghawi, died in the Aurora shooting. She conceded that gun control is a difficult issue, and said she has spoken to numerous lawmakers in Washington who “want to do the right thing without it costing their jobs.”
Phillips said she is counting on Obama to press the issue.
“We need to have universal background checks for every sale, that’s a minimum,” she said in an interview before the meeting. “I hope he keeps pushing for the assault weapons ban and I hope he keeps pushing for magazine restrictions.”
In his remarks, Obama pushed Congress to vote on banning assault weapons, limiting access to high-capacity ammunition magazines and other measures.
“I don’t believe that weapons designed for theaters of war have a place in movie theaters,” Obama said to applause.