Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, became the latest governor to call for more gun regulations as he reflected on last year's deadly movie theater shooting in his state and said Coloradans "have an obligation to prevent similar tragedies."
As the heated debate continues over firearms following the Newtown elementary school massacre, Hickenlooper told elected officials Thursday in his State of the State address that "our democracy demands this type of debate."
He then made his own proposal.
"Let me prime the pump: Why don't we have universal background checks for all gun sales," he said, prompting a long standing ovation from the crowd of state lawmakers and law enforcement workers. Federal law exempts gun purchasers from undergoing background checks during private transactions, including at gun shows.
Hickenlooper's recent comments on gun control represent a notably different tune than the one he had following the Aurora movie theater rampage last summer, which left 12 dead and dozens wounded. Back then, the governor said the timing was not right to talk about guns, emphasizing a need for space so victims and their families could grieve.
But in December, shortly after a fatal shooting at an Oregon mall and just before the Newtown, Connecticut killings, Hickenlooper began to express openness toward a discussion on gun control. And now he's calling for changes in legislation.
"Surely Second Amendment advocates and gun control supporters can find common ground in this proposition: Let's examine our laws and make the changes needed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people," he said.
However, the first-term governor said it's "not enough" to focus solely on weapons. He also requested support for a "comprehensive overhaul" of the state's mental health system that will "make it easer to identify people with mental illness who are a danger to themselves and others."
His comments came one day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, called for the state to pass the toughest gun laws in the country. Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy of Connecticut also urged changes in gun laws in his State of the State address Wednesday.
"When it comes to preventing future acts of violence in our schools, let me say this: more guns are not the answer," Malloy said.
Furthermore, Vice President Joe Biden is holding meetings this week with groups from both the pro- and anti-gun movements and pledged to give his recommendations to prevent gun violence to President Barack Obama by Tuesday.