GOP state senator in Colorado says it was "a good thing" that Aurora killer James Holmes had 100-round magazine

Sen. Bernie Herpin's argument against the state's new gun control law goes horribly wrong

By Elias Isquith

Published February 13, 2014 8:55PM (EST)

During a Wednesday hearing over a bill to repeal one of Colorado's recently passed gun-safety laws, Republican state senator Bernie Herpin shocked attendees — and gravely offended an Aurora theater shooting victim's father — by saying it was "maybe a good thing" that Aurora theater shooter James Holmes had a 100-round magazine.

In 2013, the Colorado state legislature, spurred on in part by the horrific mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater the previous year, passed two gun-safety laws. One mandated universal background checks for gun purchases, while the other limited most ammunition magazines to 15 rounds.

The laws were immediately controversial and ultimately led to three Democratic state senators losing their seats, either through the threat or the reality of recall elections mounted by gun rights enthusiasts.

As a result of one of those recalls, a Republican by the name of Bernie Herpin ascended to the Colorado state Senate. Surprising no one, Herpin introduced a bill to overturn the recently passed restriction on ammunition magazines.

A nearly identical law has already been voted down in the Dem-controlled Colorado state House of Representatives and is certain to fail in the state Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats. But the state Senate held a hearing on Herpin's bill all the same.

It was during this hearing that Herpin made his unfortunate remarks in response to a question from a Democratic senator on the committee.

"My understanding is that James Holmes bought his 100-round capacity magazine legally," said Sen. Irene Aguilar. "So, in fact, this law would have stopped James Holmes from purchasing a 100-round magazine. I was wondering if you agree with me."

"Perhaps James Holmes would not have been able to purchase a 100-round magazine," Herpin responded. "As it turned out, that was maybe a good thing that he had a 100-round magazine, because it jammed. If he had four, five, six 15-round magazines, there’s no telling how much damage he could have done until a good guy with a gun showed up."

Soon thereafter, Tom Sullivan, the father of Alex Sullivan, a victim of Holmes' killing spree, made clear how outraged he was by Herpin's comments.

"I’ve had a lot of thoughts since July 20, 2012, but never once did I think anyone was better off because the shooter brought a hundred round drum into that theater," Sullivan testified before the committee. "Alex never had a chance. He was watching a movie one second and the next he was dead. The fact is, if the shooter had to change his magazine that would have been a chance for Alex to survive."

“The lack of empathy and compassion is shocking,” Sullivan later said to a local television reporter for the Denver area. “Not just to me and my family, but to all of the families who have lost loved ones to gun violence and to all the people of Colorado. But this is what he truly believes."

You can hear Herpin make his argument here.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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