Aurora town hall erupts at Mike Coffman over gun control: ‘How many more killings?’

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Mike Coffman’s ability to change his political stripes has helped the Aurora Republican survive repeated challenges in Colorado’s diverse, Democratic-leaning Sixth Congressional District. But at an emotional town hall Tuesday night, Coffman showed that for all his convenient chameleonism, he’s still wildly out of step with his constituents when it comes to reforming the nation’s gun laws.

Coffman was repeatedly jeered as he rebuffed calls for stricter gun control measures and defended his long history of accepting campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association.

“How many more killings?” shouted one attendee.

“Are you willing to stand up against gun lobbyists?” asked another, who identified himself as a veteran and called for the prohibition of “military-style weapons” like AR-15s.

Anger boiled over as Coffman dodged the man’s question, instead pivoting to the issue of background checks.

“No firearm, no matter what it is, should be in the hands of someone that’s not a responsible gun owner,” Coffman said, prompting more boos from the crowd.

“No one needs an assault weapon!” shouted one man.

Renewed calls for stricter gun laws have been heard around the country in the wake of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and teachers were killed by a 19-year-old gunman wielding an AR-15.

It’s an all too familiar tragedy to many residents of Coffman’s suburban Denver district, which includes the Aurora theater where 12 people were killed in a shooting in 2012, and whose southwestern boundary stops just short of Columbine High School — the site of the 1999 massacre that ranked as the worst high school shooting in U.S. history until it was supplanted by the Parkland shooting last week.

A Quinnipiac poll released on Tuesday showed support for stronger gun laws at an all-time high, with fully two-thirds of Americans — and even a clear majority of gun owners — in favor. Sixty-seven percent of Americans support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons.

At Tuesday’s town hall, a questioner who said her husband had been a first responder dispatched to the scene at Columbine described the emotional toll of nearly 20 years of watching such tragedies unfold locally and across the country — and expressed hope that a turning point may have finally been reached.

“After the Florida shootings, I stood in anger as I watched children be stronger than the adults in our country,” said the woman. “An avalanche is coming to Washington, sir, and it is going to be led by our children.”