DENVER (AP) — A package of gun control measures won initial approval in Colorado's Democratic-controlled House Friday night, with Vice President Joe Biden personally phoning four lawmakers from his ski vacation in the state to speed along the emotional debate.
Biden phoned three freshmen legislators along with Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino. The calls came amid a long debate over the proposals, including expanded background checks and ammunition limits — responses to mass shootings, including the killings at a Colorado movie theater.
In all, the House gave the initial OK to four bills after a daylong debate. The preliminary votes set up final actions on the measures Monday.
The Democratic gun-control package that advanced also includes banning concealed weapons on public college campuses, and requiring that gun buyers pay for their background checks.
One of the freshmen Biden called, Democratic Rep. Tony Exum, hails from conservative Colorado Springs and said he had no idea who would be on the line when a "restricted" number rang his cellphone during afternoon debate.
"He said, 'This is Vice President Joe Biden.' I said, 'No way!'" Exum recalled with a chuckle after the call.
Exum said that Biden repeatedly called him "chief," a reference to Exum's former service as a fire chief. Exum said Friday night that his mind was already made up to support the gun-control measures, but Biden asked about the package's prospects. Exum said prospects were good and that he was happy to hear from the vice president on Colorado's gun debate.
Biden also talked to Democratic Rep. Mike McLachlan, whose southwest Colorado district includes more Republicans than Democrats.
The vice president also called Democratic Rep. Dominick Moreno, a lawmaker from suburban Denver.
"We just had a brief conversation about what we're doing today and emphasized the importance of Colorado's role in shaping national policy around this issue," he said. Asked what he thought Biden meant, Moreno said, "Well, I can only speculate, but I think mostly because Colorado is such a politically moderate state."
Biden left a message for Ferrandino but didn't speak to him.
The vice president was in Snowmass, just outside Aspen, for a holiday weekend skiing trip with his granddaughters.
Colorado's votes capping magazine sizes and expanding required background checks to private sales came amid 12 hours of debate. The votes were preliminary and unrecorded, but they were the first chance for many lawmakers to debate gun control after mass shootings last year in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.