A month after a gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder King Soopers, state lawmakers from the city say they could introduce bills in response to the tragedy as soon as next week.
Sen. Majority Leader Steve Fenberg previewed the legislation at a town hall Wednesday night. He says the Boulder delegation is focusing on three kinds of reform, including expanding background checks to ensure people with a violent past cannot buy guns.
“A lot of people would think that's obvious and we've already got that in the books. And we do sort of, but not for violent misdemeanors, which can be serious, especially if they're violent,” Fenberg said. “Maybe the misdemeanor itself wasn't serious, but it can be… a sign of someone who has tendencies or is someone who could be violent and they probably shouldn't have a gun.”
Lawmakers are also considering mandatory waiting periods for firearm purchases.
“That’s a conversation we're having,” he said. “If you should you be able to go in and walk out with a gun five minutes later, or if there should be a waiting period for purchasing those guns.”
In addition to background checks, Fenberg says lawmakers are also seeking to end a 2003 state law that prevents cities and counties from enacting gun restrictions stricter than the state’s rules.
“That's something that we're very interested in repealing to make sure governments like Boulder, like Denver, et cetera, can actually have common sense gun regulations that go above and beyond what the state does,” Fenberg said.
Finally, the Boulder delegation is vowing a “big investment in mental health.”
Fenberg says that will also include promoting the state’s existing extreme risk protection order law, which allows residents to ask a judge to temporarily take away a gun from someone who poses a threat to themselves or others.
Gov. Jared Polis said last week he thinks the law is not working as intended.
“Families who could use it, don’t know about it,” he said. “When you look at how they've been used in the last two years it has been the law, it's been used more by law enforcement. And when it had been designed, it had been thought to be used more by families, particularly parents, you know, of 18, 19, 20, 21-year-olds. That's a lot of the age of onset of some of these psychological risk factors. And I think it needs to be better publicized to let them know that's available to them.”
Assault Weapons Ban Appears Less Likely
Meanwhile, the delegation of Boulder lawmakers is sounding less optimistic about their initial call for a statewide ban on assault weapons.
“We're still having those conversations and trying to figure out if there's a path to do that this session,” Fenberg said. “But again, the three of us wholeheartedly support that at a state level, if not a federal level, definitely at the federal level. And that's a question that we're still kind of working through.”
But Rep. Edie Hooton appeared skeptical it will advance this session.
“We have less than eight weeks (in the session) left to go,” she said. “And if in the next seven weeks we can pass three really meaningful bills, that will make a difference in Colorado, that's how we're going. That's what we want to prioritize.”
She said she has also received warnings about the measure from fellow Democrats, including Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora theater shooting.
“He said (an assault weapons ban) is not practical. It’s not going to pass. It will blow up the Capitol,” Hooton said. “And there’s so many other things that we can do that will prevent the wrong people from getting their hands on guns.”
Fenberg said it would also be risky to advance a ban if the votes aren’t there to pass it.
“I don't want to introduce a bill that is going to make… the radical gun organizations encourage their radical members to go and buy tons and tons of weapons that put more guns in our communities than we would otherwise have,” he said. “I don't think that's a good result. If we can pass a bill, I support introducing it. If we can’t pass it, there are potentially some negative ramifications.”