Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Friday morning a bevy of new gun regulations that advocates hope will tamp down gun violence in the state and had opponents pledging to sue over as soon as his pen hit the paper.
The new laws restrict gun purchases to people age 21 and older; create a three-day waiting period before a purchaser can take possession of the firearm; expand who can file so-called red flag laws to include medical care providers, mental health-care providers, educators, and district attorneys; and remove liability protections for gun manufacturers in lawsuits.
All four bills passed with only Democratic support in the legislature, where the party holds a supermajority in the House and a near supermajority in the Senate. A fifth bill to ban so-called ghost guns — firearms that lack serial numbers, such as those sold in build-it-yourself-kits — is working its way through the legislature. Democratic leaders backed all five.
Surrounded by advocates and survivors of gun violence, Polis said the bills will save lives. Supporters of the reforms have often pointed out these bills aren’t just about the mass shootings that have rocked the entire state, but also suicides, domestic violence and other shootings that don’t lead to days of news coverage.
“No action can ever bring back the loved one that you lost,” Polis said. “But turning your own personal tragedy into action in a way that will make others safer, will really prevent others from having to go through what you went through.”
The bills faced stiff opposition as they wound their way through the General Assembly. Republicans led a multi-day filibuster in March before the Democratic supermajority invoked a rule to limit debate. Republicans largely argued against the bills on the basis of Second Amendment rights and Coloradans’ ability to defend themselves and their property.
“Today, Colorado is less free and our citizens less safe and able to protect themselves,” House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, a Wellington Republican, said in a statement. “For law-abiding Coloradans, it’s a historically dark day — a day that many of our citizens, no matter their political party, thought impossible in their state. We know the vast majority of Colorado gun owners go above and beyond to follow the law. But as usual, Democrats want to punish the majority for the criminal or tragic actions of the few. This policy has never been successful and has been rejected in the past.”
Droves of students also filled the Capitol following shootings earlier this year following shootings at East High School that left classmates dead and administrators wounded. Several lawmakers at the bill signing invoked the student protests specifically.
“Mothers and fathers, doctors, kids, teachers, the people of the state of Colorado are saying enough,” state Sen. Jessie Danielson, a Wheat Ridge Democrat, said. “Enough is enough. Enough of your thoughts and your prayers, it is time for action. It is time for you in the legislature to do something. And we did.”
She and other lawmakers pledged that they’d come back with more gun legislation in future legislative sessions.
Meanwhile, gun rights groups pledged immediate legal action over the bills. Taylor Rhodes, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, specifically planned to file immediate lawsuits targeting the constitutionality of the three-day waiting period and age limits for gun purchases. In particular, Rhodes cites the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling commonly known as the Bruen decision as strengthening Second Amendment rights.
“Gun owners’ rights are being ravaged in the Colorado legislature,” Rhodes said in a statement that also called them “puppets” of gun violence reduction advocates. “And they will not be happy until all law-abiding gun owners are disarmed and only the criminals have guns.”
Echoing arguments made by Republican lawmakers, he invoked domestic violence victims and young women being unable to defend themselves.
As the lawmakers debated the proposals earlier this year, a lobbyist for the group also argued against recent analyses that found firearms are a leading cause of death for children in the United States. The statistic wasn’t true “if you remove black males in that age group,” the lobbyist, Kevin Lorusso, said. The comment drew audible reactions during that February hearing and led Rhodes to tell Denver 7 that the lobbyist “misspoke.”
State Rep. Jennifer Bacon, a Denver Democrat and Black woman, invoked the incident during the bill signing ceremony. She called forward several other Black women at the signing to be seen for their work, including the incoming director of Mom’s Demand Action and the group’s legal adviser and state Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who lost her son to gun violence.
“These are faces of people who have quite literally, through this process, been delegitimized,” Bacon said. “People have tried to erase the tragedies that are happening in communities of color … I come to this bill to remind people that our lives matter and that we are a part of this narrative through the tragedies through which you haven’t experienced. And quite honestly, watching people skip over that has been devastating.”
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