Mar 9, 2023 - News

Colorado lawmakers push new gun laws as state confronts its history

Illustration of a gun with a "no" symbol for a trigger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Ten years after Colorado put in place landmark gun control measures, the issue is once again front and center at the state Capitol.

Why it matters: The contentious debate puts Colorado back in the national spotlight and shows how states are grappling with firearms amid federal gridlock on the issue.

State of play: Five major gun control measures are under consideration as the Democratic-dominated Legislature hits the halfway mark this week in the 120-day session.

Details: Three measures advanced through a Senate committee Wednesday after a day-long hearing and party-line vote. The legislation would:

  • Expand the state's "red flag" law to allow psychologists, teachers and others to ask a judge to temporarily seize a person's firearms if they pose a threat.
  • Repeal current limits to allow civil lawsuits β€” including from the attorney general β€” seeking damages against firearm makers and sellers.
  • Increase the minimum age to purchase a firearm in certain cases to age 21, up from 18.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, a House panel approved a measure to require a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases.

Between the lines: Much has changed since Democrats pushed through a package of gun laws in 2013 after the Aurora theater shooting, John writes.

  • Then, Republicans used the moment to oust two rivals and take control of the state Senate. Now, Democrats are moving more confidently with larger majorities and shifting political winds in their favor.

The intrigue: Still, the party will face a test. A bill to prohibit the sale or importing of assault weapons, such as semi-automatic rifles, faces opposition within the party. Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, has declined to back such a policy.

What they're saying: Senate President Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, worries the politics surrounding the assault weapons ban will distract from other proposed gun control policies that lawmakers believe are more effective.

  • Some Democratic senators "don't feel like it's the right policy at the right time," Fenberg told reporters this week.

The other side: Republicans don't have the votes to block the legislation, but that didn't stop opponents from testifying against the measures at Capitol hearings.

  • The critics worried that expanding "red flag" filings to medical professionals would prevent gun owners from getting the mental health help they need, while others disputed whether the measures would reduce gun violence.

Of note: Second Amendment advocacy organizations, led by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, are already preparing a lawsuit against the new restrictions, which they argue infringe on constitutional rights.


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