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Colorado lawmakers approve sweeping gun-control measures

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Both chambers of the majority Democratic Colorado legislature approved a package of four gun-control measures on Wednesday, capping months of debate in a state that has experienced two of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

The most controversial of the bills that are now headed to the desk of Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is a ban on ammunition magazines with more than 15 rounds, which the governor said he will sign into law.

The passage of the bills could push Colorado to the forefront of a national gun control debate reignited by several mass shootings last year, including the December massacre of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The sponsor of the Colorado magazine-limit bills, state House Representative Rhonda Fields, told fellow lawmakers in a floor debate on Wednesday the proposal was about "saving lives."

"These are weapons that should be used in a theater of war and not in our local theaters," said Fields, a Democrat whose district includes the suburban Denver movie theater where a gunman killed 12 people in a shooting rampage last July.

Colorado was also the site of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, where two teenagers shot dead a teacher and 12 other students before committing suicide.

Other bills included in the package of gun-control laws approved by Colorado lawmakers included a measure to make firearm buyers pay for their own background checks and a ban on online certification for concealed-carry permits, both of which Hickenlooper has said he supports.

Another measure would bar gun purchases by people convicted of domestic violence crimes. Hickenlooper had previously said he was undecided about that until he could see the final version.

One remaining gun-control measure to require background checks for all firearms transfers was sent to a conference committee on Wednesday, so that both chambers could hash out differences between the Senate and House versions.

The proposals that won final approval on Wednesday had received little Republican support.

Republican House minority leader Mark Waller issued a statement after the bills' passage, calling Democrats "out of touch" with their constituents.

"More than 200,000 Coloradans are out of work but Democrats are more concerned with passing legislation that will send hundreds of jobs out of our state without any increase in public safety to show for it," Waller said in a statement.

Waller was referring to Magpul, a Colorado-based manufacturer of ammunition magazines that has vowed to leave the state and take away its hundreds of jobs if the magazine-limits bill becomes law.

The Colorado legislature's action follows the passage in New York state in January of a sweeping gun-control law that bans assault weapons and magazines that hold more than seven rounds of ammunition, requires gun owners to register most guns with the states and requires universal background checks.

President Barack Obama has put forward a number of federal gun-control proposals in the wake of the Newtown killings.

On Tuesday, a divided U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee advanced to the full Senate a measure endorsed by Obama that would require criminal background checks for all gun buyers.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Eric Walsh)

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