NewsCapitol Watch


Testimony underway in Colorado House on 'assault weapon' ban

The bill covers a wide range of firearms with specific parts, banning the sale or transfer
Posted at 12:57 PM, Mar 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-19 18:36:28-04

COLORADO — A bill to ban so-called assault weapons in Colorado is getting a first look in a House committee hearing on Wednesday. Colorado House Republicans say more than 400 people have signed up to testify either in support or against the bill.

Because of this, House Speaker Julie McCluskie moved the Judiciary Committee hearing to an early morning event instead of its usually scheduled time in the afternoon.

Listen to the hearing on the Colorado General Assembly website.

Republicans are against this move, saying it prevents representatives on that committee from voting on the bills that will be heard on the House floor.

Supporters of the bill reference the use of semiautomatic rifles by suspects in the Club Q Shootings, the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shootings, the Colorado Springs Halloween Even shootings, the Columbine High School attack, the Boulder King Soopers shootings, and the Century 16 attack in Aurora as local justification for the proposed changes.

Many witnesses who testified in favor of the measure referenced the impact of gun violence on their families and communities, specifically around mass shootings committed using semi-automatic firearms.

El Paso County Sheriff Joe Roybal was among the law enforcement officials who testified in opposition to the bill. He told the Judiciary Committee this "is an attempt to rewrite the past.. which is not possible." He also argued the bill "only addresses the how not the why" by offering "false hope" that it will make an impact on crime.

Sheriff Roybal argues it will not impact people who already break the law and they will find a way to obtain firearms. He asked, "What will you as legislators do when the killings continue? Because they will." Roybal also opposes the current version of the bill which prevents the transfer of firearms from one generation of family members to the next.

When questioned about what his office is doing under current law to help prevent future violence, specifically with the Club Q shooting suspect, Roybal argued his office did follow the law in regard to the handling of the suspect's weapons during a prior investigation. Roybal said he was not able to speak further on the Extreme Risk Protection Orders law as it stands, due to potential impacts on the pending trial of Anderson Aldrich.

You can read his remarks below.

Weld County Sheriff Steve Reames spoke about the statistic of roughly 10% of his constituents being concealed carry holders who are mostly first-time gun owners. Reames says when he issues these permits the overwhelming reason given is for self-defense due to rising crime rates.

Reames testified he does not believe this bill addresses the underlying cause of gun crimes which he says is tied to a mental health crisis and not enforcing laws already on the books.

The bill would ban the sale and transfer of "assault weapons" which are defined as semiautomatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns with specific, common characteristics. See below for a very detailed look at what would be banned, if passed as written.

Governor Jared Polis has said in the past he won't support the bill, but told News5 gun safety is still his priority.

While the bill does not ban current ownership of the firearms defined, it does restrict the sale or transfer to anyone in Colorado.

If passed, HB23-1230 'Prohibit Assault Weapons In Colorado' would go into effect once signed by Governor Jared Polis and leave firearm dealers until July 1, 2023, to sell or transfer the remaining inventory to non-Colorado residents.

The measure was introduced by Representative Elisabeth Epps (D-Denver) and Senator Rhonda Fields (D-Adams, Arapahoe). For now, the bill is assigned to the House Judiciary Committee where the sponsors serve.

We have the list of all the items prohibited in the bill later in this article.

According to the summary text, "the bill defines the term 'assault weapon' and prohibits a person from manufacturing, importing, purchasing, selling, offering to sell, or transferring ownership of an assault weapon. The bill further prohibits a person from possessing a rapid-fire trigger activator. A violation is a class 2 misdemeanor."

The legislative declaration states, in part:

"Assault weapons in civilian hands endanger Colorado's streets, stores, restaurants, places of worship, music venues, schools, movie theaters, and communities at large. With an assault weapon, even a firearms novice can perpetrate a mass casualty incident."

"Assault weapons are uniquely lethal due to tactical features that are designed for the battlefield in order to injure or kill large numbers of people quickly and efficiently. These tactical features differentiate assault weapons from other firearms. These features include detachable magazines, barrel shrouds, pistol grips, forward grips, and telescoping stocks, which allow a shooter to either conceal the weapon or make it easier to fire a high volume of ammunition in a short period of time while maintaining accuracy."

The organization Rocky Mountain Gun Owners strongly opposes this measure and others before the General Assembly this session.

“Gun bans, like this, are a direct infringement of both the United States and Colorado Constitutions and have been shown to have no positive effect on crime rates or deterrence of mass shootings. Additionally, this so-called ‘assault weapons’ ban senselessly turns thousands of law-abiding Colorado business owners into criminals for simply attempting to sell a firearm with features arbitrarily deemed ‘scary’ by the gun grabbing Democrats,” said Taylor Rhodes, Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners in a release.

The group is already working on a process to collect petition signatures to present to lawmakers and Governor Jared Polis in opposition to HB23-1230.

"This isn’t your stereotypical semi-auto ban targeting firearms like AR-15s and AK-47s – this ban will also restrict the purchase of most semi-automatic pistols and shotguns. This the line in the sand and I’m asking every single freedom loving Coloradoan to stand with us and demand their legislators and Gov. Polis oppose this horrendous bill,” said Rhodes.

The measure joins many other firearm regulation measures introduced in this year's Colorado General Assembly to raise the age to purchase a firearm, adding a waiting period for sales, county authority to prohibit firearm discharge, and the ability for people to sue gun manufacturers.

What's in the bill

Within HB23-1230, an "assault weapon" is defined as a firearm that includes any of the following:

  • .50 caliber rifle, excluding antiques, shotguns, and muzzle-loading firearms
  • a semiautomatic rifle
    • that accepts a detachable magazine, or may be modified to accept one
    • has a pistol grip
    • with a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand
    • with a folding, telescoping, thumbhole, or detachable stock
    • with a flash suppressor
    • with a functional grenade launcher
    • with a shroud attached to the barrel, or that partially or completely encircles the barrel
    • with a threaded barrel
    • with a fixed large-capacity magazine (more than 15 rounds as defined by CRS 18-12-301)
  • a semiautomatic pistol
    • that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine, or may be modified to accept one
    • with a second pistol grip
    • with a shroud attached to the barrel, or that partially or completely encircles the barrel
    • with a flash suppressor
    • with the capacity to accept a detachable ammunition-feeding device at some location outside of the pistol grip
    • that weighs more than 50 ounces when unloaded
    • with a buffer tube, arm brace, or other part that protrudes horizontally behind the pistol grip
    • with a fixed large-capacity magazine
  • a shotgun with a revolving cylinder
  • a semiautomatic shotgun
    • with a pistol grip
    • with any feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand
    • with a folding, telescoping, thumbhole, or detachable stock
    • with a functional grenade launcher
    • with a fixed large-capacity magazine
    • with the capacity to accept a detachable magazine
  • a semiautomatic firearm that has the capacity to accept a belt ammunition feeding device
  • any firearm with a rapid-fire trigger activator

The bill also has a provision for someone who has the parts to make a complete weapon, with the definition of "any combination of parts from which an assault weapon may be readily assembled if those parts are in the possession or under the control of the same person."

Excluded from the bill are rimfire weapons, such as a .22 caliber pistol or rifle.

Also excluded are members of the armed forces while acting within the scope of their duties, sales to the US armed forces, temporary transfer of possession for maintenance and repair, historical societies and museums, forensic laboratories, an entity that operates an armored vehicle business, a peace officer, or an agency that employs peace officers.

The penalties for violations involving an "assault weapon" include:

  • for July 1, 2023, to December 31, 2024, a $1,000 civil penalty for each violation
  • for after January 1, 2025, a $5,000 civil penalty for each violation
  • Violations are a Class 1 Misdemeanor

The penalties for violations involving an "assault weapon, including a rapid-fire trigger activator" include:

  • After July 1, 2023, to December 31, 2024, for a licensed gun dealer, licensed firearms dealer, gun show vendor, or a person attempting to sell an "assault weapon, a $250,000 civil penalty for the first "assault weapon sold" and $500,000 for each subsequent violation.
  • Violations are a Class 2 Misdemeanor

Also prohibited in this bill is the sale, rental, or transferring ownership of a firearm, including an assault weapon, to a juvenile without the consent of a parent or legal guardian.


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