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April 28, 2023 2:29 pm MST

Polis, Dems Deliver Bigly On Gun Violence Prevention In 2023

  • by: Colorado Pols
Gov. Jared Polis signs gun safety bills. (Photo by Rep. Lindsey Daugherty)

As the Denver Post’s Nick Coltrain reports, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law a package of four gun safety bills today, considered to be the biggest advancement on the issue since at least the passage of the state’s landmark “Red Flag” law in 2019, and possibly the momentous and politically-consequential 2013 session of the Colorado General Assembly:

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.

Each of these bills directly confront specific gun violence issues that have been in the headlines recently in Colorado. Raising the age for gun purchases might have directly prevented the Boulder King Soopers mass shooting in March of 2021. A more accessible “red flag” law could have prevented any number of shootings and deaths by suicide, a need highlighted by the reluctance of local law enforcement to employ the law ahead of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs last year. Three-day waiting periods have been proven to reduce both homicides and suicides, and liability protection for the gun industry became an issue after the parents of an Aurora theater shooting victim were stung by punitive immunity measures in Colorado protecting the gun industry from accountability. Along with a late bill banning so-called “ghost guns,” these are all bills with a backstory in local tragedy that created the mandate for their passage.

The signing of these bills into law is a moment that Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly fought with all their micro-minority might to prevent, leading to the Democratic majority using some of the less-polite parliamentary tools in their bag to cap the number of hours Republicans could endlessly repeat the same complaints. And with their allies at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) firing off a lawsuit within minutes of the bills’ signing, House Republicans remain snarlingly defiant:

Let’s take just a moment to explore the logically faulty case House Republicans are making here. First, a new poll from none other than Fox News out yesterday completely debunks Republican claims they lack public support, as has basically every public opinion poll in the last decade:

A new Fox News Poll finds most voters favor the following proposals:

— Requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers (87%)
— Improving enforcement of existing gun laws (81%)
— Raising the legal age to buy a gun to 21 (81%) [Pols emphasis]
— Requiring mental health checks on gun buyers (80%)
— Allowing police to take guns from those considered a danger to themselves or others (80%)
— Requiring a 30-day waiting period for all gun purchases (77%) [Pols emphasis]

If Fox News can’t convince Republicans they’re on the short end of the public opinion stick, who can?

Of course, House Republicans aren’t basing their assessment on any actual data, but rather on perception of public turnout to testify against a bill that wasn’t even a part of the leadership-sanctioned gun bill package–the failed assault weapons ban. Republicans forget to mention that the bill never had the support within the Democratic majority to pass, and despite that still saw a very large contingent of gun safety advocates turn out to support it.

If that flimsy anecdote is all Republicans have to counter Democrats’ mountain of data and overwhelming public support, the political battle is over. There will be no repeat of the 2013 or even the fizzled 2019 gun lobby-engineered backlash. With respect to legal challenges, we can only anticipate the political fallout from conservative judicial activism on guns will be similar what is happening to Republicans right now after they achieved their long-sought goal of overturning Roe v. Wade. If a politically tainted judiciary imposes policy the voters don’t like, they’ll take it out on the politicians they can vote against.

In the meantime, none of the bills signed into law today will prevent a law-abiding citizen from buying any type of gun. The mechanism by which these laws will save lives is straightforward to explain. Colorado Democrats have proven over a decade of sustained progress that, even in the Wild West, the gun lobby need not be feared in taking common-sense steps to reduce the toll from gun violence.

At long last, let the word go forth.


8 thoughts on “Polis, Dems Deliver Bigly On Gun Violence Prevention In 2023

  1. Did one of the bills institute a 30-day waiting period? While I support a waiting period, 30 days is a bit extreme. I'm thinking of a lady who finally gets up the nerve to get out of an abusive relationship only to have to wait a whole month before she can get a gun to protect herself from her ex. 7 days is plenty for a waiting period, and I 'd actually prefer 3, but I get that there does need to be time for the background check.

    1. HB23-1219 [as amended by Senate with concurrence from the House], Waiting Period To Deliver A Firearm.

      Concerning establishing a minimum three-day waiting period prior to the delivery of a purchased firearm.

      passed. Final votes:

      Senate:Aye: 21 No: 14 Other: 0

      House Aye: 46 No: 15 and 4 Excused.:

  2. A proposed ban on sale of assault rifles or bump stocks failed to make it out of committee. While the smaller bills that passed are good, I don't think the legislature has delivered "bigly." They've done what Dems usually do when they have lots of power: mostly just nibble around the edges of problems. On the whole, it's very disappointing to dominate the government at this level, yet see only incremental changes.

    1. "a proposed ban on sale of assault rifles……..failed to make it out of committee.

      Instead of faulting the Dems, fault the judicial process that has seen virtually every such ban invalidated by a federal judge. 

      1. There’s a more practical problem than the RWNJs on the bench.

        Enacting bans at the state level will do nothing unless you also want to stop people from interstate travel without undergoing inspections.

        Colorado enacts a ban and folks drive to Wyoming to buy their assault rifles.

        The more things change, the more they stay the same.

      2. I can fault both, can't I? If Dems' position is "well, we can't enact a good law because the Republican judges will stop it" (something that you're imputing, not one that I've stated in opposing HB 1230), then they've allowed Republican priorities to determine their policies. They ought to at least try, and show their voters the policies they'd actually like, instead of just what they think a Republican judge will let pass.

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