DENVER — The kill committee at the State Capitol lived up to its name on Thursday.
Three bills to loosen Colorado's gun laws failed for the fifth straight year in the same committee that they have failed the last five years, the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee known as the "kill committee."
"Well, it's not called that. It's called that by people who choose to call it that," said committee chairman Rep. Chris Kennedy (D-Lakewood). "I offered the Speaker that I would serve in whatever capacity that would be of most use. When she appointed me the chair of this committee, it was in part because we're going to be dealing a lot with election law issues, campaign finance issues, lobbyist disclosure issues, and I have some experience working on those kinds of things."
So why the heck is the committee for election issues hearing legislation on gun laws?
"People can vote no and kill bills and protect other members from having to take hard votes," said House Minority Leader Rep. Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).
Neville sponsored a bill to allow concealed carry of handguns on school grounds. It was his fifth time he tried to get the bill passed this committee.
"I bring you this bill, it's not the first time I've brought it before and it won't be the last," Neville told the committee. "A flashy sign on the front door of my high school did not stop two crazed lunatics, and it will not stop people in the future."
His bill died on party lines, six Democrats against the bill, three Republicans in favor.
A bill to repeal the 2013 law that limits magazine capacity on guns to fewer than 15 bullets also lost 6-3.
Another bill to allow deadly force against an intruder in a business also failed.
All three have failed in this committee five years in a row.
"There's never a wrong time to the right thing," said Neville.
When lawmakers are only allowed five bills each year, why sponsor a bill that has certain death? How does a lawmaker tell a constituent that they're going to run a "dead on arrival" bill instead of something that has a chance to pass?
"Of course you consider everything, but it's a pledge that I made that I'm going to run this bill as long as I'm down here, I'm going to stick to my word," said Neville. "Doing something that I'm absolutely passionate about, allowing my kids to be protected in their own school, so they don't have to go through what me and my friends went through at Columbine is not a waste of my time."
Neville, was a student at Columbine during the 1999 school shooting.
Before becoming House Minority Leader, he served on the kill committee.
"I got transportation (committee) which I really wanted, so no one really wants to be on State Affairs," said Neville. (Former House Minority Leader Rep. Brian) DelGrosso was kind of, 'you got one thing you really want, you're not going to like this one.'"
Neville said he was selected for the committee because he was in a safe district, having won his election with 70 percent of the vote.
"That's typically why they stack this committee in that way, so that they can protect other members, so they don't have to take the hard votes," said Neville.
Of the nine members who make up the committee in 2019, the lawmaker who faced the closest election was Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs). And he won with 61 percent of the vote.
Three others won their election with 63 percent of the vote, including Kennedy.
"Our job is to provide a fair hearing and to really listen to people. It may not change our minds," said Kennedy. "I think that every vote we take is subject to public scrutiny in some way, shape or form. But, I think that I can be confident in going in to tell my district, 'yeah, I voted against a bill that I think would be bad in terms of expanding access to guns, rather than doing more about gun safety."
Between 2015 and 2018, the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee heard 362 bills. Of those, 209 -- 58 percent -- were killed. That's nearly three out of every five heard.