Gun Culture

Pro-Gun Bills Dead, But So Is Boulder Assault Weapon Ban

Even as murder and other violent crime rates are on the rise in Denver, Second Amendment fans are working overtime to try and make guns more accessible across the state. And while five pro-firearms bills died quiet deaths in the Colorado General Assembly this week, a court tossed Boulder's ban on assault weapons — and a separate ruling could endanger the so-called Red Flag law, which creates an apparatus to take guns away from individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others.

On Wednesday, March 17, four bills backed by the advocacy group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners went before various committees; we wrote about three of them last month in our "Four Most Radical 2021 Colorado Gun Bills" post.

Here's the RMGO's description of the proposals:
HB21-1038, Concealed Carry on School Grounds. This bill would allow teachers, parents, and other law-abiding citizens to carry a firearm for self-defense on school grounds.

HB21-1070, Repeal the 2013 Mag Ban. This bill would restore Coloradans’ freedoms to buy and own standard capacity magazines.

HB21-1082, Gun Transfer Background Check Permit Exemption. This bill would allow those with a valid CHP [Concealed Handgun Permit] to bypass background checks when purchasing a firearm.

HB21-1185, Repeal Government Firearms Regulations, and Training Class Regulation. This bill would restrict the Governor from taking executive action against our Second Amendment rights. Additionally, it allows CHP classes to be conducted online instead of an in-person course (as currently required by state law). 
While RMGO executive director Taylor Rhodes referred to the measures as "common-sense bills that would increase Colorado's safety and freedom," the Democratic majority of committee members felt otherwise. All four have been postponed indefinitely, meaning they won't return this session. (The same goes for the fourth measure in our previous roundup, HB21-1098, subtitled  "Civil Liability for Extreme Risk Protection Orders," which earned its own postponement on March 16.)

Gun proponents were much more pleased by the March 12 ruling by Boulder District Judge Andrew Hartman, who struck down Boulder's assault-weapons ban on the grounds that state law prevents local municipalities from prohibiting the sale or possession of firearms.

Hartman's decision triggered widely varying responses. In a statement on behalf of Colorado Ceasefire, which calls for gun-law reforms, Tom Mauser, whose son was killed in the 1999 attack on Columbine High School, said, "This is a bitter disappointment. Assault weapons have been the source of horrendous tragedies here in Colorado and across the nation. Clearly the people of Boulder do not want these weapons of war in their city."

In contrast, Boulder resident Jon Caldara, head of the libertarian Independence Institute, argued that the order was a victory for diversity of thought in the overwhelmingly liberal community. "I was proud to be a plaintiff in one of the legal challenges against this hateful ban and the ban of magazines with more than ten rounds," he noted. "My lawsuit, spearheaded by the sharp folks at Mountain States Legal Foundation, attacked the issue in federal court. That suit was put on hold until the NRA’s sister lawsuit in state court was decided."

As Caldara sees it, the ruling means that "Boulder, the lily-white city that professes tolerance but smugly tries to run us deplorable types out of town, has been forced to live up to its words of inclusivity."

Meanwhile, on March 15, the Colorado Supreme Court turned thumbs-down on speed-reading computer technology used by Democrats in 2019 to comply with a Republican demand that every word of a more than 2,000-page death-penalty bill be recited aloud. Such tactics are clearly used to delay certain measures from coming to a vote through an irritating technicality, but a 4-3 majority of the court stated that because the provision appears in the Colorado Constitution, it had to be obeyed, without the use of tech that rendered the words unintelligible.

Dudley Brown, president of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (yes, them again), sees the decision as having a bearing on a complaint filed by his group against the Red Flag law. "Our lawsuit is very similar to this," he stressed in his reaction to the decision. "Now, I don’t want to claim a full-blown victory yet, because we all know how things can shake out in court, but this ruling is a big step in the right direction. Patriot, I am more confident than ever we will WIN our Red Flag lawsuit in the Colorado Court of Appeals."

And the battle goes on.
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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