© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Gov. Hickenlooper On Trump's Priorities To Prevent Gun Violence


President Trump says he would have rushed in to save the students at Marjory Douglas High School in Florida.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know, I really believe - you don't know until you're tested, but - I think I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon. And I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too.

MARTIN: The people in the room he's addressing were governors from across the U.S. who had gathered with President Trump at the White House to talk about gun laws and what changes can be made, if any. I'd like to bring in Colorado's Governor John Hickenlooper. He's a Democrat and joins me now. Thanks so much for being with us, Governor Hickenlooper.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Did you come out of that meeting with President Trump understanding his priorities when it comes to preventing gun violence?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, he certainly spoke a lot about things he'd like to see happen. He wanted to see a lot more teachers armed. He was very emphatic that he wanted to make sure they were appropriately trained and had the requisite skills. I mean, I'm not sure he had worked all the way through a coherent, integrated approach.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk about that idea. One of your colleagues in that meeting, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state, said he had heard from first-grade teachers who didn't want to be, quote, "pistol packing first-grade teachers." Let's listen to a little bit more of what he said.


JAY INSLEE: Now, I just think this is a circumstance where we need to listen, that educators should educate and they should not be foisted upon this responsibility of packing heat in first-grade classes.

MARTIN: So President Trump is talking about a select group of teachers and staff who would have all the necessary training and permissions to carry a weapon. Is that something that you could support?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think that that's one of those things that, when I've talked to teachers, literally almost no teacher wants to be carrying a weapon.

MARTIN: They don't want to. But is it something that you think could be considered as you think about different ways to address gun violence and mass shootings in schools, in particular?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, I mean, listen. We've gotten to the point, I mean, we're terrorizing ourselves, right? If you were trying to harm this country, what better thing could you do than to create a context where kids were too scared to go to school, or, when they got to school, they were too scared to learn? And we've been terrorizing ourselves. So we've got to look at everything on the table. But certainly raising the age where people can, you know, what kids can buy automatic weapons, looking at universal background checks - some of this basic blocking and tackling makes a lot more sense of really getting that in place before you start talking about trying to arm people who, really, in many cases aren't cut out for it. This is not something they'd be good at.

MARTIN: Yours is a particularly interesting state when it comes to this whole debate. Colorado obviously has a thriving gun culture. At the same time, it's been the site of at least two high-profile mass shootings, including Columbine in '99. You were governor when the Aurora movie theater shooting happened in 2012. Looking at that case in particular, do you think you did enough after the Aurora shooting?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, we're a purple state. And we've got universal background checks done, we put through a limit on how large a magazine people could put in these assault weapons. And both of those were huge battles. Again, I didn't know a single Democrat, or single Republican, citizen, civic leader, president of the art museum, whoever, who was against background checks. And yet, we couldn't get a single Republican vote. So many people, a lot of folks thought we were - it was remarkable that we got those things passed. Do we need to do more? Of course. I think there's still more to be done, but this is going to be a process where at a certain point either there's going to be a tipping point - and if Parkland wasn't a tipping point, I don't know what should be...

MARTIN: Although people said that about Newtown, as well.


MARTIN: Do you think that this is different? Does this feel like a tipping point to you?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, there's an accumulation of sorrow. And I think people's hearts are just breaking, and there is a frustration now. For the first time, I keep hearing people talking about, you know, long-term Republican funders saying they're going to fund people based on how they respond to gun safety, the introduction of gun safety laws, and that's new. I mean, I haven't heard that before where Republicans, who historically have been fighting for, you know, more traditional Republican goals, right? Lower taxes, smaller government, that kind of thing. Now they're looking at gun safety as a large enough issue that it will define who they donate money to and who they vote for.

MARTIN: So as you articulated, you got political pushback for the gun control measures that you put in place after the Aurora shooting. So you lost seats. I mean, Democrats lost seats in the subsequent election because of those measures. What are the lessons from Colorado that can be applied at the national level when it comes to finding any compromise on gun laws?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, again, one lesson we learned was don't quit, and we haven't. And I think we did lose the state Senate. Two state senators, two good, strong, you know, believers in the public good were recalled from their positions strictly based on their votes on the gun legislation, the gun safety issues. And I think that's, you know, that's a line in the sand that people have to be aware of, but you can't quit. I mean, children are getting, you know, slaughtered in our schools. I mean, and it's not just the kids. Places of worship. People going to country music concerts. We're allowing ourselves to be terrorized by, in essence, by our neighbors.

MARTIN: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, we appreciate your time. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

HICKENLOOPER: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.