NewsCapitol Watch


Uncertainty surrounds bill banning so-called assault weapons in Colorado

Committee hearing suddenly called off as top Democrats decline to endorse bill
Posted at 6:43 AM, Apr 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-03 08:43:36-04

DENVER — Democratic state lawmakers advanced four major gun reform bills this session, with the Colorado House of Representatives even holding rare weekend sessions to get it done.

But a proposal to ban so-called assault weapons is facing some uncertainty after a committee hearing was suddenly canceled.

The largest package of gun reform bills in a decade may soon be headed to the governor’s desk.

This week, lawmakers could take final votes on amendments to the bills.

The bills remove legal protections from gunmakers, expand the state’s red flag law, require a three-day waiting period, and raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21.

Republican lawmakers criticized Democrats for limiting debate on the bills and accused them of attacking the Second Amendment.

“It isn’t defending guns. It’s defending the ability to protect yourself, protect your family and protect your country,” said State Rep. Ty Winter, R-District 47. “When you pass legislation, it has farther reaching consequences than they see.”

House Democratic leaders celebrated the passage of the bills.

“With 40 days left in the session, it was a significant milestone to get through the bills that we did,” said House Speaker Julie McCluskie.

But the package of bills they passed does not include a bill banning so-called assault weapons.

That bill, which is sponsored by Representatives Elisabeth Epps and Senator Rhonda Fields, has yet to be heard in committee.

A hearing was scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee last Tuesday but was suddenly called off.

McCluskie told Denver7 they wanted to focus on a package of abortion bills instead.

“Recognizing how demanding this [past] weekend was, and the three bills we have on reproductive health that are coming this week, it was a good decision to delay,” said McCluskie.

While many progressives have called for a ban on certain guns, it’s unclear whether Colorado’s Democratic leaders are willing to go there.

The governor has repeatedly declined to comment or endorse the bill when pressed by reporters, and neither McCluskie nor House Majority Leader Monica Duran would say if they supported the bill when Denver7 asked them about it during a media availability.

“I haven’t read the bill,” said Duran. “I'd like to really kind of hear the bill and make sure it does what it's supposed to do, so I don't have a position yet.”

Opponents of the bill, including the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, celebrated the hearing's cancellation, seeing it as a sign that the bill was dead.

But the group's executive director posted a video later, saying they had "prematurely" celebrated and urged followers to sign a petition to lawmakers and the governor.

The bill defines assault weapons by certain features and characteristics.

It also bans the manufacturing, importing, purchasing, selling, offering to sell, or transferring of ownership of an assault weapon.

As of Sunday afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee has not rescheduled a hearing on the bill.

Multiple messages left for Fields and Epps seeking comment have not been returned.


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