Colorado governor entangled in 'nightmare' gun case
March 24th, 2013
11:26 AM ET
10 years ago

Colorado governor entangled in 'nightmare' gun case

(CNN) – Colorado's governor, who this week signed some of the nation's tightest gun control measures into law, said Sunday he couldn't fathom why the son of one of his close friends would decide to shoot his state's prisons chief - also a friend - to death.

"I felt like I was caught in a nightmare I couldn't wake up from. All these things were happening to people that I loved. And they didn't seem to be connected in any way," Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said on CNN's "State of the Union." He added his own security was being bolstered in the aftermath of the crime.

"We know Evan was connected to the white supremacist group. We can't see clearly what a motive was," he continued, referring to Evan Spencer Ebel, whom authorities have linked with the slaying of Tom Clements, the director of Colorado's state corrections system.

Ebel himself died in a shootout with sheriff's deputies in Texas on Thursday. Investigators have told reporters that Ebel, a former member of a white supremacist prison gang, might have conspired with other inmates to kill Clements.

Clements earned widespread recognition not only for prison reforms but also for a crackdown on prison gangs, including the one Ebel is said to have belonged to.

By all accounts, Ebel came from a privileged upbringing. His father, Jack Ebel, an attorney and former oil executive, counts Hickenlooper among his friends. The two met in the 1980s while working for the same firm.

"From the beginning his son just seemed to have this bad streak - this streak of cruelty and anger," Hickenlooper recalled to CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. "And yet, they did everything they could. They worked with Evan again and again, but to no avail. He had a bad, bad streak."

Clements was also a friend, Hickenlooper said, and one of the "elder statesmen" in Colorado's government.

"To have two people connected, two people I know so well and love so deeply to be connected by this, it's inexplicable," he said.

This week, Hickenlooper signed into law new gun control measures requiring universal background checks for gun sales, restricting the size of ammunition magazines and making buyers pay for their own background checks.

The laws, which at one time would have seemed impossible in Colorado, came after a spate of deadly shootings in the United States, including the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, last summer.

Lawmakers in Washington are also debating new gun control laws, though a ban on assault weapons pushed by some Democrats was scuttled this week when it wasn't included in legislation headed to the Senate.

A ban on assault weapons, along with other measures like improving background checks, make for "tough sells" in states like Colorado, where gun ownership is a way of life, Hickenlooper said.

"They deeply believe that their guns and the Second Amendment are critical parts of American life," he said Sunday. "And their integrity and honesty and conviction, you can't challenge that."

Filed under: Colorado • John Hickenlooper
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. john

    'his own security was being bolstered' more guns to protect him as he takes away guns from we the people.

    March 24, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. Howdy

    Let's be clear, no legislation was created when the theater shooting happened. Hick knew what the aftermath in votes would have meant during election time. He was protecting his job and party. This single act proves he's not in it for the people. He's in it for himself. he waited until Sandy Hook, after the elections, to create these unconstitutional laws.

    It's a game for him, not a responsibility. Come election season, hopefully sooner, Coloradans will vote Hick and his kind out.

    March 24, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. lottie

    That is a totally stupid statement. No one is taking guns away from honest citizens . True NRA mentality at work. When will people wake up to theses crazy statements. ?

    March 24, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  4. danny

    That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

    March 24, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  5. Colorado resident

    Actually John, nothing is being confiscated by Colorado authorities. The magazine ban is not retroactive and only applies to future purchases. IE – if you have an AR15 with 30 round magazine, it is still perfectly legal.

    March 24, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. rs

    Congress is caught in the nightmare: They are in the pocket of the NRA, the weapons industry and the only voice is Wayne La Pierre's lunatic scream of endless paranoia. On the other hand, Congress' approval rating hovers just above single digits; 90% of Americans want background checks and restrictions; 75% want an assault weapons ban.

    What will they do? Shoot themselves in the foot (or head) to appease the Crazy One? Or, will they do the right thing and try to stem the more than 1,000 deaths per MONTH in America that happen with firearms?

    March 24, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  7. DMG2FUN

    " The magazine ban is not retroactive and only applies to future purchases. IE – if you have an AR15 with 30 round magazine, it is still perfectly legal."
    It is magazine ban. Magazines wear out! Why do leftist aka progressive socialist gun haters play word games?

    March 24, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Scare The Pilgrims

    When Magpul packs up to re-locate in either Texas or Wyoming taking that $185,000,000.00 tax revenue Colorado got every year out of the statewith them . When the Boycott of 2013 Hunting & Fishing licenses sets in started by Mike McNulty Director of The Colorado Organization for Public Safety and D. Ray Hicks the Director of The Colorado Gun Owners Teaparty , this Boycott projected to cost $3 Billion Dollars...meaning $1.8 Billion in Sporting Goods Sales and $1.2 Billion in reveue reaped by the Hotel Restaurant etc. industry in the state . Maybe then all the rich will leave because Colorado will look like a 3rd world country in a few short years,,teach these leeches to pass Unconstitutional Gun Laws against its crime free citizens , it has happened before & its gonna keep on happening, Sad part is Hotels & Restaurants are Coloateral Damage,,sad to see people beg for food in the Good Old U.S.A. ,,

    March 24, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  9. rs

    I wish the disingenuous who argue agains anti-gun violence laws would please try to be honest.
    1. No one will lose guns, and no one is proposing any laws to take guns away.
    2. More than 90% of Americans want full background checks- for gun shops, WalMarts, gun shows, and private sales.
    3. More than 70% of AMericans want an assault weapons ban
    4. No one cares what metric YOU use to define "assault weapons" (Congress can do that if they grow a spine)
    5. No law-abiding gun owner, or person qualified to buy a firearm are having their rights infringed. These requirements are still less invasive than buying a car at your local Chevy shop, and you have a far, far greater selection.

    March 24, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. rs

    That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

    That's great, now realize the majority of Americans are seeking to do just that by making our nation safer from the scourge of guns, the weapons industry, and the gun kooks like Wayne LaPierre and the radical NRA.

    March 24, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. colorado

    Yes, you are coorect in the literal sense, hick is not confiscating guns, but he is making sure the future generations don't have them, wich is the same thing. It's just a long term plan for a people with short attention spans.
    I think this next election cycle will tell a lot about were we are as a state left or right.

    March 24, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. bob, ny

    Why do good people need assault guns? Why does America need nuclear weapons? Why do cops need lethal power? It scares the hell out of the bad guys ...that's why!

    March 24, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. phil

    @RS, although universal background check are a sound idea up front, it is almost impossible to implement....Here why ! There is something call HIPPA and that is something that is used to protect patient medical record confidentiality and is is use to protect the civil liberty of people that have undergone medical treatment of any kind from purposely being discriminated against doe to medical condition for Jobs and other things in life, this was pushed for by the with that in we open that up to law enforcement to be used to see into anyone's psychiatric condition on whether they can or cannot own a gun. that's the first things, two let not forget the "RIGHT" to bear arms is a "RIGHT" and it's the second 'RIGHT " "Guaranteed" in the constitution !! with that said how do you take a right away from someone for having a psychiatric condition, let's say depression ADD, OCD or a host of mental issues....BUT they have committed no crime or hurt anyone are you saying try them and take away a CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT as a preemptive measure.....REALLY.....maybe we should take away their voting rights or their free speech along with it. The constitution is to protect the people from The "GOVERNMENT" ... because the framers DO NOT TRUST the government... That why on our currency it says "IN GOD WE TRUST" not "IN KING" or "Queen" or "OBAMA or"BLOOMBERG" or "FEINSTEIN"...tell me how much of the slippery slope you are willing to go down.

    March 24, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  14. Rick McDaniel

    That's why gun control doesn't have to solve the real problem........the people who are violent, who are mentally ill, and who have zero understanding of right, vs. wrong.

    No one has proposed anything, that addresses THOSE issues............absolutely NO ONE!

    March 24, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  15. bob, ny

    Who does the polling on who wants to ban assault guns and large ammo clips? I meet a lot of people daily, and have not heard any of these people speak up. I only hear this view on the TV news or their media outlets. Didn't we condemn Pravda for controlled news?

    March 24, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  16. Russ there

    90 percent 75 percent your drinking your own koolaid as a law abiding citizen all i can say is come try to take them. besides bloomberg gonna take your sugar for your koolaid thn your freedom of speach then your personal property good luck with that, foolish rabbit tricks are for kids.

    March 24, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain

    The kid had a "bad streak" ... I have met a couple kids who seem to by sociopaths from the get-go and it's mind-boggling. Ebel may also have been abused in some way that caused him to snap ... you never know. My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims in this tragedy.

    March 24, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. ThinkAgain

    One person's criminal is another person's hero ... I bet the members of Ebel's former white supremacist group are all cheering his actions, thankful that there is ready access to guns so they can implement their own "second amendment solutions" to their problems.

    March 24, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. James

    If you want gun control then move to England or china. Leave the REAL Americans alone leave the constitution alone. How did some people come up with 90% for background checks and 75% for assault weapons ban. There is no way that's true!

    March 24, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. MO

    When our elected officials start fearing for their lives becuase they vote on something that the majority of the nation wants then maybe we will understand what tyranny truly is.

    March 24, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain

    @danny: Reasonable regulation of firearms is well within Constitutional rights. We have similar regulation on these First Amendment rights:

    First Amendment guarantees free speech – but you can't yell fire in a crowded theater. It also guarantees freedom of religion – but you can't perform human sacrifice as a "sacrament". It also guarantees freedom of the press – but you can be sued for libel. Lastly, it guarantees the right to assemble – if your peaceful assembly becomes violent, you can be arrested.

    March 24, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  22. M. Zimmerman

    My condolences to the family of the shooter (Ebels) and to the fznimy if the victim. Some people cannot be helped and no one knows more than the parents who tried.

    March 24, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  23. Glockmod23

    I think the Far-Left should be made to get a "Permit" from the State & Fed. Government before posting Anything on here. Kind of like what they want the people that owns Guns to do !!

    March 24, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  24. Heather

    1. Background checks & banning some weapons and ammo is just the first step. The next step will be confiscating the guns.

    2. Background checks would NOT have stopped the shooting in the movie theater. (And, lest we forget, Lincoln was shot in a movie theater. Our founding fathers did not ban guns then, not should we now.

    3. Background checks would NOT have stopped Sandy Hook.

    4. We already have laws on the books that should have stopped the prison official from being killed. A felon should not have had a gun.

    5. Isn't anyone concerned that the governor is saying "oh, yea. I knew my friend's son was a member of a white supremist group." Come now. How often do people that don't judge by the color of your skin raise children that are that full of hate for a race? Something is fishy here.

    6. As for the statement that 90% of the people support background checks, I was not asked. My family was not asked. Were you asked your opinion? Show me the sampling.

    7. I have plenty of friends that own guns. Tey have never shot anything more than a target or gone hunting. I can't see any of them hurting anyone. Just the opposite. If we outlaw all guns and we don't step up and fix what is making our country so violent, people will just choose other weapons. Are we going to outlaw steak knives, next?

    "Colorado" I agree with you! This is just the first step.

    March 24, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  25. Tommy G

    All of this is nothing more than liberals and Democrats taking advantage of the situation to push through their anti-guns agenda, just like they have used every other crisis or emotional situation. NONE of these new laws would have prevented ANY of the shootings that happened. That is a FACT. If the Democrats and liberals were serious about truly preventing future incidents, they would be focusing on identifying mentally ill people in this country and the establishment of a do-not-buy list. Problem is this runs up against privacy laws, etc. There are thousands and thousands of current gun laws, many of which go unenforced or ensnare innocent law abiding citizens exercising their 2nd amendments rights. The fact is Democrats and liberals aren't interested in REAL solutions, just political BS at the expense of millions of law abiding citizens. They need to ALL be voted out of office.

    March 24, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |