DENVER — Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban guns — whether they’re carried openly or concealed — from “sensitive spaces” such as public parks, community centers, churches and adjacent parking areas.
Senate Bill 24-131 was filed this week by a group of Democratic lawmakers.
It’s the latest sign lawmakers are gearing up for another gun control debate in the state legislature. Only a handful of gun bills have been introduced so far this year, but more are expected.
Behind the scenes, lawmakers are said to be discussing anywhere from 10 to 17 different pieces of legislation. All of them likely won’t be introduced, but people on both sides of the debate are keeping a close eye on developments.
As executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a gun rights group, Taylor Rhodes is a busy man.
“It's gonna be a marathon this year,” Rhodes said.
His group has spent millions of dollars in court fighting gun control laws passed by Colorado lawmakers.
“We're wrapped up in almost $6 million worth of lawsuits,” said Rhodes.
Among the laws they’re challenging in federal court are two that passed last year. One law raises the gun purchase age to 21, while the other establishes a three-day waiting period.
In August 2023, a federal judge blocked the state from enforcing the age limit law. In November 2023, another federal judge allowed the state to begin enforcing the three-day waiting period law.
This year, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is keeping a close eye on SB24-131, which would ban people from carrying guns, openly or concealed, in “sensitive spaces." This includes parks, community centers, hospitals, government buildings and churches, as well as parking areas adjacent to them.
Violations would be an unclassified misdemeanor. Violators would have to pay up to $250 for the first offense and up to $1,000 for subsequent offenses.
“Now they're trying to say you don't have the right to carry in your church or in a public park or on the street corner because it's adjacent to the Capitol,” Rhodes said. “That's just ridiculous.”
State Representative Meg Froelich, D-Englewood, is one of the bill's co-sponsors.
“The basic concept is that people deserve to be safe in spaces in our community,” said Froelich.
Froelich is a prime sponsor of two other gun bills. Senate Bill 24-003 would authorize the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate illegal activity involving guns, including illegal sales and possession. Froelich said it will free up local law enforcement agencies that are often understaffed.
“Currently, the mechanism is that local law enforcement can call in the CBI and get assistance. This allows CBI to proactively investigate,” said Froelich.
The other bill Froelich is sponsoring, Senate Bill 24-066, requires payment networks to make a merchant code so law enforcement can track gun sales, which could help them in criminal investigations.
“It's just another tool in the toolkit for law enforcement to have the ability to see those transactions,” said Froelich. “It’s something that’s been effective in human trafficking and money laundering investigations.”
Froelich is sponsoring SB24-066 with State Senator Tom Sullivan, who lost his son in the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting.
Rhodes is not thrilled with any of the gun control bills that have been introduced. With Democrats in a supermajority in the House and a near supermajority in the Senate, gun rights advocates have little chance of stopping legislation they don’t like. That’s why Rhodes promises to take more fights to the courts.
“It's all just egregious,” said Rhodes. “We're planning and adding to our legal fund because we realize what's going to happen.”
But Froelich and her colleagues aren't too worried about potential lawsuits from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
“The fact of the matter is Rocky Mountain Gun Owners are not winning elections,” she said. “They're out of step with the people of Colorado.”