Gun Culture

What Guns Are Now Forbidden in Boulder

The March 2021 shooting at the Table Mesa King Soopers helped inspire the new Boulder gun-reform measures.
The March 2021 shooting at the Table Mesa King Soopers helped inspire the new Boulder gun-reform measures. Photo by Michael Roberts
On June 7, in response to the March 2021 attack on the Table Mesa King Soopers and more recent mass shootings across the country, the Boulder City Council passed some of the most sweeping gun-reform laws in the country.

Among other things, Boulder City Council banned the sale and possession of assault weapons and so-called "ghost guns" (weapons built from kits or using a 3D printer); prohibited carrying a firearm at protests, voting centers or businesses granted a liquor license; mandated a ten-day waiting period for gun purchases to allow for detailed background checks; and required gun retailers to post signs about the dangers of owning a gun in both English and Spanish.

The text for those signs includes this: "WARNING: Access to a firearm in the home significantly increases the risk of suicide, death during domestic violence disputes, and the unintentional death of children, household members, or others. If you or a loved one is experiencing distress and/or depression, call 1-844-493-8255."

The ambitious agenda involved six separate ordinances detailed in a packet that runs for an astonishing 613 pages — and the analysis of the measures makes it clear that these moves were years in the making.

"In response to the tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, City Council passed two ordinances that, among other things, banned possession of most assault weapons within city limits, banned magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition, and raised the legal age to possess firearms from 18 to 21," the document begins. "Litigation ensued, and on March 12, 2021, the Boulder County District Court ruled that the city’s assault weapons ban and large-capacity magazine restrictions were void as preempted by state law."

Just ten days later, it continues, "a shooter armed with a semi-automatic Ruger AR-556 pistol killed ten people at the King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive in Boulder. In response to the district court ruling and the shooting, the state legislature repealed the state’s preemption statute. State law now expressly allows municipalities to enact firearms regulations stricter than those found in state statutes. The purpose of the proposed ordinances is to enact new regulations in compliance with the state statute and to expand Boulder’s efforts to prevent gun violence."

The ban on "the sale and possession of assault weapons, large-capacity magazines and rapid-fire trigger activators," as well as raising the age to purchase firearms, involves amending current city statutes, it notes, then argues that such actions are necessary because "gun violence poses a grave public safety threat in Boulder. Statewide in Colorado, guns are the leading cause of death for children ages one through 17 and cause the deaths of nearly two-thirds of women who are killed by intimate partners.... Colorado has the 18th highest gun death rate among the 50 states and saw elevated levels of mass shootings in 2020 and early 2021, when a mass shooter killed 10 people at King Soopers in Boulder using an assault weapon and large-capacity magazines.

"Boulder has a higher population density than more rural parts of the state, and is characterized by the presence of traffic and commuters, business districts, the University of Colorado and Naropa University, and entertainment and nightlife venues," it continues. "These areas have a greater number of potential targets for large-scale school and workplace violence, mass shootings and interpersonal gun violence, and, therefore, these demographic attributes create a special need to restrict weapons that facilitate mass shootings, including assault weapons, trigger activators and large-capacity magazines."

The ordinance points to historic precedents: "Perpetrators of the five deadliest shootings in modern U.S. history — Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Sutherland Springs, and El Paso — used assault rifles with military-style features. Colorado’s deadliest mass shooters have also used assault rifles or pistols, including the Aurora movie theater shooter, who used an assault rifle and a 100-round drum magazine; and the King Soopers shooter, who used an AR-style pistol that an ATF expert described as 'made for the military and designed for short-range combat.'"

As a result, council affirmed that "assault weapons are inappropriate for civilian use due to the unique features that allow shooters to rapidly fire a large number of rounds — more than is ever needed for lawful self-defense — while maintaining control of the firearm in order to accurately target and kill more victims."

The summary of each ordinance agenda item during last night's council meeting ends with this: "Read on second reading, passed and adopted this 7th day of June 2022."

Click to access the June 7 Boulder City Council agenda; see the meeting below:
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts