Apr 1, 2021 - Politics
Colorado Democrats want action on gun control after Boulder shooting
A King Soopers grocery store, not connected to the Boulder shooting, is reflected in the window of the Eagles Nest Armory in Arvada.
A King Soopers grocery store, not connected to the Boulder shooting, is reflected in the window of the Eagles Nest Armory in Arvada. The man charged in the shooting purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol from the store. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Democratic lawmakers from Colorado are demanding concrete action to address gun violence in the days after a mass shooting in Boulder left 10 dead.

What's happening: The conversation is increasingly focused on banning assault weapons and those like the Ruger AR-556 that the accused gunman used at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder.

  • A push for a federal assault weapons ban — backed by President Biden — appears unlikely to pass given the narrow Democratic margin in the U.S. Senate.
  • A state-level effort could prove easier, though it wouldn't stop others from bringing guns across Colorado lines.

The big picture: Seven states and the District of Columbia prohibit some assault weapons — but Colorado is not among them.

In Washington, Colorado's four Democratic members of the U.S. House signed a letter Wednesday that urged Biden to make it more difficult to purchase weapons like the AR-556.

  • Days earlier, the lawmakers called on Biden to issue an executive order banning the importation of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

At the state Capitol in Denver, lawmakers want to ensure any action "doesn't just make us feel good, but actually can save lives," said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder).

  • "It would be irresponsible for the legislature not to do anything in light of the tragedy last week," state House Speaker Alec Garnett (D-Denver) said.
  • Republican leaders stand opposed to gun restrictions.

Worth noting: Two measures being discussed wouldn't have directly impacted the Boulder situation.

  • A proposed bill to affirm the ability of local governments to ban assault weapons — a move Boulder took that is being challenged in court — wouldn't have helped because the alleged shooter purchased the gun in neighboring Arvada.
  • Likewise, legislation being considered to implement a five-day waiting period for gun purchases wouldn't apply because the shooter legally bought the gun after a background check six days earlier.

What's next: Democratic lawmakers are unsure about how to proceed and some are urging a focus on mental health measures. Whether Gov. Jared Polis will put his weight behind new gun regulations remains unclear. The question exposes the Democrat's mixed record on the issue.

  • In 2013, as a congressman, Polis said he opposed a ban on assault-style weapons, saying it would "make it harder for Colorado families to defend themselves and also interfere with the recreational use of guns."
  • In 2018, as he ran for governor, Polis did an about-face and sponsored a bill to ban weapons such as AR-15s and AK-47s.
  • In response to the latest push for legislation, Polis won't say where he stands — only that he'll review what arrives on his desk.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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