Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia will abandon one of his party’s priority pieces of legislation when the so-called red flag gun bill comes up for a final vote in the state Senate in the coming days.
Garcia first announced his decision to vote “no” on the measure to The Pueblo Chieftain on Tuesday.
“I took a hard look at this bill and while I strongly believe in its intent of preventing gun violence, this is simply not the right legislation for the people of Pueblo and southern Colorado,” Garcia said in a written statement. “Make no mistake — as a Marine veteran, I firmly believe that we can work together while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners and addressing the issues at hand. I want to continue working with my colleagues to find a Colorado solution.”
The Pueblo Democrat’s vote on House Bill 1177 could provide Republican opponents of the bill more fuel for their attacks on a policy that has led for calls to recall Gov. Jared Polis and other Democratic lawmakers.
The Pueblo Democrat had for months refused to say how he would vote on the measure, releasing a cryptic statement about his views on the legislation. He was absent for the Democratic roll out of the measure that would allow judges to order the seizure of firearms from people deemed a significant risk to themselves or others last month.
On Friday, Garcia told reporters he still hadn’t made up his mind as the Senate was debating the bill, citing his district’s makeup and saying that he was still weighing constituent input.
“I lived through 2013,” Garcia said at an event in his hometown earlier this month, according to The Chieftain.
He was referencing the recall of two senate Democrats after the party passed a slate of gun-control measures in the wake of the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. A third Democratic state senator resigned.
Sen. Angela Giron, a Pueblo Democrat who held Garcia’s seat, was one of the two who were recalled.
Garcia has voted for efforts to repeal the 15-round limit on the capacity of firearm magazines, one of the bills passed in 2013. That gave observers reason to believe he would vote “no” on the red flag bill.
But being the top Democrat in the Senate, voting against the rest of his party marks a significant split. He will likely be the only Democrat in the chamber to vote against the bill. If any others defect, the legislation will fail without any Republican support.
Democrats have an 19-16 majority in the Senate.
“People have to vote with their conscience and the communities they represent,” Sen. Brittany Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat who is leading the red flag bill’s push in the Senate, said after Garcia’s announcement Tuesday. “I respect Leroy and his decision. We’re going to still have the support to pass this bill.”
Several Democrats voted against the bill in the House, but they are not in leadership positions.
Once the measure clears the Senate, as expected, it still faces a final vote in the House for approval of Senate amendments. Polis has said he will sign the bill.