Last Friday, Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 23-279, legislation to outlaw the sale and manufacture of so-called “ghost guns”–weapons made in part from 3D-printed and other home-based fabrication methods with no traceable serial number or background checks required. This legislation, the fifth major gun safety bill from the 2023 legislative session signed into law, was introduced late in direct response (useful reader clarification below) to the use of a “ghost gun” in a shooting at Denver’s East High School. From a joint House and Senate Democratic release:
Governor Jared Polis today signed legislation aimed at preventing further gun violence and cracking down on “ghost guns” into law. Sponsored by Senators Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and Representatives Andrew Boesenecker, D-Fort Collins, and Junie Joseph, D-Boulder, SB23-279 prohibits the possession, sale, or transfer of an unserialized firearm, frame or receiver. It also prohibits manufacturing a frame or receiver, unless done by a federally licensed firearm manufacturer, including via a 3D printer.
Ghost guns are unregulated, untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home, often through DIY kits or downloadable blueprints. They are designed to avoid all gun laws, and are available to purchase without a background check, serial number, sale record, or other protections.
“Ghost guns are untraceable, unserialized weapons that anyone can make or assemble in their own home – and they’re extremely dangerous,” Fields said. “We worked hard this session to make Colorado safer and prevent gun violence, and this new law is a big step towards reaching that goal. I’m proud to champion this legislation that will prevent ghost guns from causing further violence in our communities and create a safer Colorado for us all.”
“Colorado Democrats have passed significant gun violence prevention legislation in recent years, but ghost guns bypass these life-saving firearm protections and make our communities more vulnerable to gun violence,” Boesenecker said. “Unserialized guns allow for dangerous individuals to possess a firearm and makes it harder for victims to seek accountability for gun crimes. With this new law, Colorado is cracking down on unserialized firearm parts so we can save more lives from senseless gun violence and improve accountability for victims and their families.”
Combined with new laws raising the minimum purchase age for all guns to 21, imposing a three-day waiting period on purchases, strengthening the state’s proven “red flag” law, easing the state’s formerly highly protective liability laws to allow victims of gun violence more legal rights, these together represent the biggest advancement on the issue since the tumultuous 2013 session–which saw the passage of landmark universal background check and magazine limit laws that also led to recalls against vulnerable Democrats that fall.
This year, it’s the polar opposite, with gun rights activists having failed to muster significant resistance to this year’s fun safety package despite vows to turn the capitol into a “circus.” And instead of Republicans plotting recalls against Democratic lawmakers, today at the state capitol a substantial group of anti-gun protesters is holding a sit-in to demand Gov. Polis ban all guns. Polis can’t do that, of course, but it’s a sign of how much the politics on gun control have shifted in the past decade.
Once again this year, Colorado was a model for the nation–not by passing draconian gun bans, but with thoughtful regulation of access to guns, and safety mechanisms for people in crisis. Polling consistently shows that there is overwhelming public support for passing these common-sense measures that do not unreasonably interfere with gun rights for law-abiding citizens.
While we respect those asking for still more, it’s okay to be proud of what we’ve accomplished.