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Colorado lawmakers hold hearing on bill to ban 'assault weapons'

More than 500 people signed up to testify on the bill, which is one of several gun control bills that have been introduced this year
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Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-19 19:33:18-04

DENVER — Hundreds of Coloradans descended on the Colorado State Capitol Tuesday as lawmakers held a hearing on a bill to ban so-called assault weapons. It’s one of several pieces of gun control legislation lawmakers will consider this year.

House Bill 24-1292, which is sponsored by State Rep. Elisabeth Epps, D-Denver, and State Rep. Tim Hernandez, D-Denver, would ban the manufacture, import, purchase, or sale of a range of semi-automatic firearms. The sponsors said the types of guns they're seeking to ban are those frequently used in mass shootings.

The bill would also ban the possession of rapid-fire trigger activators, which are devices that make guns fire faster.

Several educators like Kallie Leyba testified in support of the bill, saying schools are much less safe because of these kinds of weapons.

“Assault weapons are weapons of war,” said Leyba, who serves as executive director of the American Federation of Teachers Colorado. “Assault weapons are designed for one thing and that is to kill as many humans as possible in the shortest amount of time.”

More than 500 people signed up to testify on the bill. The committee hearing, which began just before 10 a.m., was expected to last into the evening.

Because of the large crowd, the sergeants-at-arms were forced to use the Old Supreme Court Chamber as an overflow room, where people watched the hearing on video screens.

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Over 500 signed up to testify. Because of the large crowd, the sergeants-at-arms were forced to move many to an overflow room, the Old Supreme Court Chamber, where they watched the hearing on video screens.

Most of the people who gathered were gun owners who opposed the bill. Hundreds of them held a rally on the steps of the State Capitol ahead of the hearing.

“Taking away guns from law-abiding citizens does not do anything for gun violence,” said Craig Williams, a gun shop owner from Peyton.

Williams testified against the bill, arguing it defined “assault weapon” too broadly.

“It's extremely broad,” said Williams. “It is a broad definition, and it does take away approximately 80% of what is out there today.”

Beth Ertz, a teacher testifying in support of the bill, pushed back against those arguments.

“We’re not talking about the range [of guns that would be banned],” said Ertz. “We’re talking about our classrooms, our movie theaters, our grocery stores. There’s no common sense argument that justifies the use of these weapons in our communities.”

Peggy Sue Andre, a transgender activist from Denver, worries the bill will leave Coloradans without the ability to defend themselves.

“A lot of us get threats,” said Andre. “I've had vandalism to my home. People know where I live. I have a right to self-defense.”

Several people testifying against the bill also threatened legal action if it became law.

“Let me be clear. If this bill is signed into law, before the ink is dried, I will file a lawsuit. I can promise you that,” said Taylor Rhodes, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Rhodes told Denver7 in February that his group has spent about $6 million challenging Colorado gun control laws.

HB24-1292 is one of several gun control bills lawmakers have introduced this year. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on House Bill 24-131, a bill to ban the carrying of firearms, both openly and concealed, from so-called “sensitive spaces,” including public parks, community centers, rallies, protests, churches, and amusement parks.

Colorado lawmakers hold hearing on bill to ban 'assault weapons'