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Colorado lawmakers unveil series of bills to add more regulations around purchasing, possession of firearms

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Posted at 6:11 PM, Feb 23, 2023

DENVER, Colorado — Democratic lawmakers have unveiled a series of bills that will add more regulations around the purchase and possession of firearms in Colorado.

On Thursday, House and Senate Democrats hosted a press conference announcing four bills. They mark the biggest slate of gun reforms in the state since a package of gun bills passed in 2021 in the wake of the Boulder King Soopers mass shooting.

That year, legislators passed a law to expand background checks for gun transfers, closing the Charleston loophole, a second law to create the Office of Gun Violence Prevention and a law to allow local governments to come up with stricter gun ordinances than the state.

Read the bill text and updates for yourself:
HB23-1219 Waiting Period To Deliver A Firearm
SB23-169 Increasing Minimum Age To Purchase Firearms
HB23-1165 County Authority To Prohibit Firearms Discharge
SB23-168 Gun Violence Victims' Access To Judicial System

This year, the first bill aims to add a longer waiting period between the time someone buys a gun and is able to pick it up.

Currently, Colorado does not have any waiting period for gun purchases. The waiting period depends on the time it takes for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to complete a background check. After a dealer submits a buyer’s form to CBI, the background check takes, on average, 20 minutes, according to the Colorado Legal Defense Group.

A draft version of the bill stipulates that the seller must wait three days after the initiation of a required background check on the person purchasing the gun or when the purchase is approved following any background check, whichever is later.

Sellers who fail to comply will face a civil infraction punishable by a $500 fine the first time and a $500-$5,000 fine for subsequent offenses.

The bill is sponsored by 22 Democratic members of the House and five Democratic members of the Senate.

It cites a 2017 study that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and its justification for the legislation, saying that mandatory waiting periods resulted in a 7 to 11% reduction in suicides by firearm and a 17% reduction in homicides by firearm.

The legislation would not apply to the sale of an antique firearm or a relic. It would also not apply to the sale of a firearm by someone in the Armed Forces who will be deployed outside of the United States within the next 30 days to an immediate family member or to a firearm transfer for which a background check is not required.

The draft version of the bill also stipulates that local governments can pass ordinances that would make the waiting period longer than the one described in the bill.

In 2021, state legislators passed a law to allow local preemption on firearms laws, meaning cities and counties are allowed to pass more restrictive measures than the state but not less restrictive ones.

Since then, cities like Boulder, Lafayette, Superior and Louisville have passed their own set of ordinances banning assault weapons, for instance.

However, those ordinances are being challenged in court by Colorado’s largest gun lobby organization, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. They were temporarily blocked last summer.

If passed, Colorado would be the 10th state to add a waiting period to the purchase of firearms, according to the Giffords Center.

Other states include Washington, California, Minnesota, Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida and Washington DC.

Federal law stipulates that someone must be 18 years old to purchase a rifle or a long gun and 21 to buy a handgun.

A second bill would give those affected by gun violence the right to sue manufacturers.

Current state law limits product liability actions against manufacturers of guns, only allowing them to be sued in instances where there is a defect in the design of the firearm or ammunition.

In 2005, the federal government passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which offers broad immunity for those in the gun industry. Thirty-three states, including Colorado, have also passed their own laws offering certain protections, according to the Giffords Center.

Colorado is also one of three states that require those suing the gun industry to pay the defendants’ legal fees. Since 2021, however, four states have expanded the rights of victims and their families to sue the gun industry.

The Senate bill draft, dubbed the Gun Violence Victims’ Access to Justice and Firearms Industry Accountability Act, would repeal that limitation and require manufacturers, distributors, importers, marketers, wholesalers or retail sellers of firearms to establish and implement a standard of responsible conduct for themselves.

The liability protections would apply not only to those who make and sell the guns, but to those who make or sell the ammunition, gun components like magazines, gun modification manufacturers and more.

A person who is injured physically or emotionally or whose loved one dies from a violation of that firearm industry code of conduct would be able to sue the industry members for their role in the shooting.

The draft bill also allows the attorney general to sue the gun industry for any violations within five years of the incident.

The reasonable controls the legislation calls for is for the firearm industry to prevent the sale or distribution of guns to straw purchasers, those who are not legally entitled to own a gun or those who pose a substantial risk of using the firearm to harm themselves or others.

Those who successfully sue the industry in civil court would be entitled to monetary relief, though the bill does not specify how much that could be, nor does it place any caps on it.

The bill is cosponsored by three Democratic senators and eight members of the House. If passed, the law would take effect on Oct. 1.

A third bill would set age limits on younger Coloradans who are trying to purchase firearms. Those 21 and under would be prohibited from buying an assault-style weapon.

It would also lay out exactly what qualifies as an assault weapon.

The fourth bill would expand the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law that was passed in 2019.

The so-called red flag law allows family members and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove the firearms of those who are considered to pose a danger to themselves or others.

In the wake of the Club Q shooting, however, calls have grown from gun reform advocates to strengthen and broaden the law.

In his annual State of the State address, Gov. Jared Polis spoke in support of updates to the law.

Later Thursday, House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, a Republican who represents Wellington, decried what he called an effort to "infringe on Coloradans’ inalienable right to live their lives without needless government intrusion" and said Republicans are also concerned about gun violence. In a statement, he said both Democrats and Republicans have to find solutions "without betraying our oaths."

"We must care about addressing the issue of gun crimes while also recognizing the utmost importance of protecting and honoring the liberties outlined in our founding documents," Lynch wrote. "As Minority Leader, I pledge to work towards finding solutions without compromising Coloradans’ constitutional rights.”
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