John Cooke

John Cooke

It’s easy to forget just how quickly the rhetoric has shifted on the Second Amendment in just the last few years. For decades, we heard the same tired line from Democrats that “nobody is coming to take your guns.” Many — including myself — didn’t buy into the assertion at the time, and for many of those who defended the Second Amendment, we caught quite a bit of grief over it. 

Just two years ago, though, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for a complete repeal of the Second Amendment. Stevens is not a part of some radical “fringe,” he was one of nine of the most powerful members of our judicial branch. His boldness was quite a departure from then-President Barack Obama’s declaration that “I believe in the Second Amendment” in 2016.

Fast forward to 2019, when we heard candidates for the Democratic nomination for president such as former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, and U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell declare their support of mandatory buyback programs for “assault weapons” — a term that Democrats still struggle to define to this day. Mandatory — meaning that if a law-abiding Coloradan decided that they wanted to keep the firearms they owned, police could come to their door to confiscate them forcibly.

“Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15,” said O’Rourke from the debate stage just six months ago. The AR-15 platform — currently one of the most popular firearm platforms in the United States today — is used in upwards of 17 million guns in the hands of Americans already. Matter of fact, one of those 17 million is owned by yours truly, and I can guarantee it has never been used to harm the innocent.

Indeed, they are coming to take your guns.

Yet, here we are again, recycled rhetoric and all. Two new pieces of legislation have been introduced at the state level that will be heralded as “common sense” and “not in conflict with the Second Amendment.” The first imposes penalties if an individual fails to report a missing or stolen firearm (HB20-1356), the second requires “safe storage” of firearms (HB20-1355).

To many, these bills may seem harmless, but if the party of those proposing them has an end goal of eliminating — or at least grossly infringing upon — Coloradans’ right to protect themselves, why should we trust that these bills aren’t just a step toward that end goal?

It would fill an entire opinion piece to discuss why both HB20-1356 and HB20-1355 are bad ideas, so I’ll try to be brief. 

If, in fact, the goal is to curb gun violence, how does reporting a stolen firearm assist in that goal? After all, firearms don’t have GPS trackers. Once somebody reports that their firearm is lost or stolen, how much closer are we to preventing that firearm from being used against innocent people? How does HB20-1356 even begin to save lives?

As for the second bill, HB20-1355, unless we plan to send law enforcement to every door to ask if somebody owns firearms and how they are stored, nobody will be charged with not properly storing a firearm, unless it is later used in a crime.

Regardless of the policies themselves — which are borderline ridiculous — I believe it is important to understand the endgame for all policymakers involved. Has anybody asked state Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, the sponsor of HB20-1356, whether he would support a full repeal of the Second Amendment? Has anybody asked Colorado House Speaker K.C. Becker, D-Boulder, or Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, that same question?

When Rep. Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, the sponsor of HB20-1355, says that Democrats will be bringing gun legislation “to the point where it’s just as common as a health care bill,” it surely seems to reinforce the idea that these efforts are simply an attempt to slowly chip away at the Second Amendment — death by a thousand bills. After all, less than a year couldn’t possibly show whether or not their legislation was effective, so why would they immediately propose new bills the next session?

Therein lies the issue. While the pro-gun control group “Moms Demand Action” was able to review the bills with enough time to arrange a protest on the day they were introduced, Republicans such as myself were unaware of the bills’ contents. That’s the way the Democrats want it. These bills aren’t about saving lives; they aren’t about finding a balance. They’re about sending a subtle message to Coloradans: “Hell yes, we’re coming for your guns. It just might take a while.”

John Cooke, R-Greeley, represents District 13 in the Colorado Senate. He also served as Weld County Sheriff from 2002 to 2014.

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