Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-District 7, acknowledges that an assault weapons ban at the federal level is “going to be difficult to pass,” but that doesn’t mean he’s given up the fight.
“I gave somebody a lecture today on using the word ‘never,’” Perlmutter said in a recent interview with Colorado Community Media. “That’s a long time.”
In a conversation that was centered on gun-control, Perlmutter reiterated his commitment to supporting gun laws aimed at curbing violence, and also praised the Colorado Legislature’s recent action on gun-related matters that have yet to receive any traction at the federal level.
At the same time, Perlmutter acknowledged the potential pitfalls that come with supporting gun control issues, as is evident with a recall election that a highly visible state politico could end up facing later this year.
Perlmutter has been outspoken on the need for Congress to pass tighter gun laws, especially in the wake of last year’s Aurora Theater shooting, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.
Perlmutter serves a vice chairman of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in the House, and is a co-sponsor of a measure to reinstate a ban on assault weapons.
But Congress, unlike the Colorado General Assembly, has yet to act on any significant gun control legislation in the wake of these tragedies. An effort aimed at expanding background checks for gun sales failed to get a super-majority in the Senate in April.
And, an attempt to ban assault weapons didn’t even come close to getting a majority of votes in that chamber.
And that’s before anything ever got to the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.
Perlmutter said he hopes that the background checks effort comes back in the Senate. But, getting the House to move on gun bills is another matter.
“We’ve had a number of meetings, but the Republican leadership has been unwilling to bring background checks or any other gun violence pieces of legislation up for a hearing or to the floor of the House,” Perlmutter said. “The Republicans are the ones running the show, so nothing sees the light of day on this subject.”
But it’s hard enough for Democrats to get gun legislation by House Republicans, let alone some members of their own party. Four Democratic senators voted against gun background checks in the Senate. And there’s Democrats in vulnerable House districts who certainly would be opposed to gun-control bills, if they ever get to the floor in that chamber.
And Democrats are not as stringent on their Congressional candidates being as in favor of gun-control efforts as their Republican counterparts are in being against those measures. For example, the Washington Post recently reported that Perlmutter was one of several Democrats who supported the House candidacy Joe Baca of California. Baca, a former congressman, is a gun rights supporter who has an “A” rating from the NRA.
Perlmutter said that he and Baca agree on many issues and that the Californian’s views on gun issues are not a litmus test in determining whether to support him.
Perlmutter also said that it’s important to remember that the majority of Democrats support gun laws like background checks, compared to a “very slim group” of Republicans
While Congress has yet to take action on gun-control legislation, the same cannot be said for the legislative body of which Perlmutter once was a member – the Colorado General Assembly.
The state Legislature passed significant gun bills this year, from universal background checks to limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“I believe they worked very hard and they came up with common sense gun violence legislation that will have a positive effect on the state,” Perlmutter said. “From a public safety standpoint, it will make Coloradans safer.”
But will Democrats face consequences for their gun votes? Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs could end up facing a recall election over his support of Democrat-sponsored gun-control measures.
Perlmutter was asked whether recall efforts like the one Morse is facing could end up having a chilling effect on Democrats who support tighter gun laws nationwide.
“The answer is yes,” Perlmutter said, adding that, “If you get recalled for that, that has a chilling effect on legislation, generally.”
But Perlmutter believes that’s the cost of doing business on something as important as curbing gun violence, especially on the heels of “two atrocities, two mass shootings that shocked everyone to their core.”
And for Perlmutter, he hopes that can lead to a total ban on the assault weapons used in those mass killings.
“I just feel that we can’t ignore this subject any longer,” he said. “But I’ve just got to find more votes.”