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'Maybe a good thing' Aurora suspect had high-capacity mag, lawmaker says

Colorado state Sen. Bernie Herpin said it was probably a "good thing" the accused Aurora shooter possessed a firearm with a high-capacity magazine in 2012.
Colorado state Republican Sen. Bernie Herpin listens during a committee hearing, Jan. 15, 2014, in Denver, Colo.
Colorado state Republican Sen. Bernie Herpin listens during a committee hearing, Jan. 15, 2014, in Denver, Colo.

A Colorado Republican this week said it was "maybe a good thing" James Holmes possessed a firearm with a high-capacity magazine when he entered an Aurora movie theater in 2012 and allegedly killed 12 people.

State Sen. Bernie Herpin, a Republican, proposed a bill that would overturn his state's newly passed law to ban magazines of more than 15 rounds. He referenced Holmes' choice of weapon during testimony of his bill on Wednesday.

"My understanding is that James Holmes bought his 100-round capacity magazine legally. So in fact, this law would have stopped James Holmes from purchasing a 100-round magazine," Democratic state Sen. Irene Aguilar said during the hearing. "I just wondered if you agree with me?"

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

Herpin's repeal ultimately failed to pass on Wednesday, allowing the state's ban on high-capacity magazines larger than 15 rounds to remain in effect. State Democrats rejected a similar Republican measure days before on Monday.

Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the 2012 shooting, advocates for stricter gun-control laws in the country.

"There's just a real lack of empathy for the victims, for everyone impacted by the shooting," Sullivan, who testified against Herpin's repeal measure, told the Denver Post.

The senator reportedly later clarified his comment, saying he didn't think it was OK for Holmes to enter a movie theater with the chosen firearm.

Residents of Colorado elected Herpin last September to replace former State Sen. President John Morse. They ousted Morse, a Democrat, from his position because of his support for gun-control policies.

The Senate's decision comes just weeks after a federal court upheld Connecticut's assault weapons ban, originally signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy in the months following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. The recent victory for reform in Colorado also came a month after a judge in New York agreed to a ban on large-capacity magazines and the sale of some semi-automatic rifles.

Colorado earned a "C" grade and ranked 15th out of all 50 states on the 2013 scorecard. The state last year enacted legislation that closed a loophole allowing the sale of firearms from private dealers without background checks. But local governments, with the exception of Denver, generally lack authority to regulate firearms or ammunition.