Mar 31, 2023 - Politics

Capitol Pulse: 11 Democrats vote against party's gun bills

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Mounting pressure to tighten restrictions on guns after recent school shootings did little to unify Democratic lawmakers at the state Capitol.

Driving the news: Eleven of the 64 Democrats in the Legislature β€” mostly from moderate districts β€” voted against at least one of the four major gun bills their party leaders put forward.

  • In doing so, they agreed with Republicans who argued the legislation impeded Second Amendment rights or ran counter to voter sentiment.

What they're saying: "As an attorney myself, I had some constitutional and legal concerns," Sen. Dylan Roberts (D-Avon) told John this week, regarding votes against bills raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 and a measure to make it easier to sue gun manufacturers.

Why it matters: The opposition undermines the Democratic Party's push to make it harder to access firearms in Colorado by acknowledging the policies go too far in the minds of many voters.

The other side: Republicans highlighted the bipartisan objections to scold the majority party. "Characteristically, Denver metro Democrats ignored the pleas of rural Colorado," Sen. Byron Pelton (R-Sterling) said in a statement.

Of note: Sen. Tom Sullivan, a Centennial Democrat and top advocate for tougher gun restrictions, said he understood the difficult politics, but questioned colleagues who split from the party. "I'm not convinced why they would have to" vote against the bills, he said in an interview.

Zoom in: Highlands Ranch Rep. Bob Marshall, the most conservative Democrat in the chamber, opposed raising the age and imposing a three-day waiting period. "There are a lot of people upset about that," he told John.

  • Marshall did vote to expand the "red flag" law and make it easier to file lawsuits after shootings, which spurred criticism from gun advocates at a town hall Thursday.
  • "I always tell people, the only thing in the middle is roadkill," he quipped.

For the record: Here are the Democrats who voted against the package of gun legislation:

  • Senate Bill 168 to allow product liability lawsuits against the firearms industry: Sens. Kevin Priola of Henderson and Roberts, and Reps. Meghan Lukens of Steamboat Springs, Matthew Martinez of Monte Vista and Barbara McLachlan of Durango.
  • Senate Bill 169 to raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21: Sens. Nick Hinrichsen of Pueblo, Priola and Roberts, and Reps. Sheila Lieder of Littleton, Said Sharbini of Thornton, Tisha Mauro of Pueblo, Jennifer Parenti of Erie, Marshall and Martinez.
  • Senate Bill 170 to expand the "red flag" law: Priola.
  • House Bill 1219 to create a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases: Sens. Priola and Hinrichsen, and Reps. Sharbini and Marshall.

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