Planned Parenthood Shooting Revives Gun Debate In Colorado Springs

Nov 30, 2015
Originally published on November 30, 2015 9:32 pm
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The suspected shooter at a Planned Parenthood clinic is expected in court today. The rampage in Colorado Springs killed three people. It has also revived a debate over guns in a politically polarized city. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Friday's massacre has cast a chill over this city at the foot of the Rockies, where people were still processing a separate mass shooting that occurred in a residential neighborhood here just a month ago.

SCOTT SOLBERG: It just amazes me how easy it is for people to get their hands on guns these days.

SIEGLER: Scott Solberg lives a few minutes away from the Planned Parenthood clinic. He says he doesn't own a gun. He doesn't want to see them banned outright, but he also thinks it ought to be a lot tougher to get them.

SOLBERG: You know, unfortunately this has become an all-too-common occurrence in the United States as well as Colorado.

SIEGLER: This past holiday weekend was a troubling deja vu for Coloradans, as they again watched their governor, John Hickenlooper, walk to a bank of TV cameras and solemnly respond to another deadly mass shooting.

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JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Like everyone, I spent a lot of time last night trying to figure out how to understand how these things can occur. And we're going to keep working on finding the answers. But in the meantime, we're going to be 100 percent focused on supporting Colorado Springs.

SIEGLER: After the Aurora movie theater massacre, Hickenlooper, a Democrat, pushed through some of the toughest gun-control laws in the country. Here in Colorado Springs, a local Democratic legislator was recalled after they passed. At the time, Colorado's Republican attorney general, John Suthers, argued the bills wouldn't deter criminals. Suthers is now the mayor of Colorado Springs. And this past weekend, he said it's too early to talk about what could have prevented the latest shooting at Planned Parenthood.

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JOHN SUTHERS: We don't know what the circumstances are, whether there's mental health issues. We don't have any idea. So it would be totally premature to talk about that.

SIEGLER: You'd be hard-pressed to find a city more politically polarized than this one when it comes to issues such as abortion and especially guns. Colorado Springs is home to two military bases, the conservative group Focus on the Family and numerous evangelical churches. But some of this state's more liberal nonprofits are also housed here, as is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the West. Politics in Colorado Springs is complicated. And you talk to locals like Robin Fishel, and it's clear they'll stay that way after this latest shooting.

ROBIN FISHEL: I'm not a pro-gun person. But I think people have the right to bear arms. But I think it's to protect themselves, not - not this.

SIEGLER: Fishel was walking into the reopened grocery store next to Planned Parenthood that had been on lockdown for hours on Friday. Nearby, an angry Tim Faraci says national politicians like President Obama are politicizing the latest shooting.

TIM FARACI: I'll tell you what I think. The most ignorant thing that came about about the whole thing was that one of our police officers died, and then the president has to come out and make a stance on his gun control. I thought it was ridiculous. He had no consideration. It was ignorant.

SIEGLER: This city is still grieving, Faraci says. Behind him, across the snow-covered lot, yellow police tape surrounds the crime scene at the clinic. Authorities say it will take six or seven more days to even finish combing through it. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Colorado Springs. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.