More than 18 months after the Columbine High School massacre, Colorado voters strongly approved a ballot measure last week to make it harder for criminals to buy firearms at gun shows.
Under the initiative, known as Amendment 22, Colorado law-enforcement officials would have up to three days to conduct background checks on prospective gun buyers at such shows. They would screen mostly for criminal records.
The state legislature considered similar legislation this year, but rejected it. The concern about gun-show purchases was punctuated by the April 20, 1999, shootings at Columbine High in suburban Jefferson County, near Denver, in which two students killed 12 fellow students, a teacher, and then themselves.
The initiative—which was championed by Tom Mauser, the father of one of the slain students—garnered nearly 70 percent of the 1.7 million votes cast.
“We’ve changed the debate. It’s not about taking guns away. It’s about rights and responsibilities,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a spokeswoman for the Arlington, Va.- based Americans for Gun Safety, which spent $915,000 to promote the measure.
Some of that money was used to run a television advertisement featuring Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who urged viewers to support the proposal.
Opponents of the measure conceded such ads were persuasive, especially in combination with the strong emotions still surrounding the Columbine shootings.
“The TV ads definitely had an effect on those who didn’t understand the issue,” said Bill B. Wyckoff, the vice president for the Colorado State Shooting Association in Littleton, the state branch of the National Rifle Association.
Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, is likely to sign it into law next month. It would take effect March 31 of next year.
A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2000 edition of Education Week as Colo. Voters Approve Wait On Gun Buys