One day after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a package of gun control bills into law, a group of students and other activists against gun violence descended on the state capitol to demand lawmakers do more. At the same time, a gun rights group moved forward with plans to challenge the constitutionality of the new laws.
The East High School chapter of Students Demand Action held a rally Saturday morning and called on lawmakers to pass an assault weapons ban before the legislative session ends in a little over a week.
“I’m sick and tired of condolences,” one of the students told the crowd. “I’m tired of empty handshakes and unproductive conversations.”
While the students and gun control advocates at the rally said they were thankful for the bills the governor signed, they say the new laws don’t go far enough.
“Ten other states have already banned assault weapons. Why is Colorado so wimpy?” asked Paula Van Dusen.
She was among the adults who attended the rally to support the students.
“If we don’t ban these weapons now, you want more guns and more guns and more guns and more guns,” said Nancy Duncan. “We’re getting afraid to be out in public and to be interacting with our neighbors. There’s no good place this is going.”
State Senator Rhonda Fields and State Representative Elisabeth Epps introduced a bill to ban military-style assault weapons, but it died in a Senate committee last week, despite Democrats holding a supermajority in both legislative chambers.
Denver mayoral candidate Mike Johnston, a former state senator, also spoke at the rally, along with Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.
“Every time someone comes back and tells you it’s impossible, just remember that they’ve been telling you that for a long, long time,” said Johnston.
Johnston also thanked students for pressuring lawmakers to pass a historic batch of legislation this year.
"After you all lived through the hardest year of your lives, when people said nothing can be done, you pushed this building," said Johnston.
Bennet said federal lawmakers need to pass a background check like the background check in Colorado.
"There's more we need to make sure that our kids in this country have a sense of safety that they deserve," said Bennet.
One of the new laws raises the minimum age to purchase a gun in Colorado from 18 to 21.
Another law establishes a minimum three-day waiting period before some can buy a gun.
A third law makes it easier for victims of gun violence or their families to sue gun manufacturers and dealers.
A fourth measure expands the state’s red flag law, adding to the list of people who can petition a court to have someone’s guns temporarily seized if they believe that person poses a danger to themselves or others.
The new laws come less than six months after a gunman stormed into an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring more than two dozen others.
The tragedy propelled Democratic state officials to make gun violence prevention a top priority during this year’s legislative session.
“In Colorado, we lead with data, common sense that delivers meaningful results,” said Polis. “These bills are a reflection of that work and will make Colorado safer."
Before the ink dried on the governor’s signature Friday, a Colorado gun rights group announced a legal challenge.
The Rocky Mountain Gun Owners filed two lawsuits against Polis, challenging the constitutionality of two laws he signed.
The group is challenging the law raising the minimum age to buy a gun. It’s also challenging the law requiring a three-day minimum waiting period.
“For the last few months, I’ve traveled the state promising our members we would sue over these unconstitutional gun control schemes, and today as the governor signs them into law, we are making good on our promises,” said Taylor Rhodes, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. “Gun owners’ rights are being ravaged in the Colorado legislature by the puppets of Everytown for Gun Control and Michael Bloomberg. And they will not be happy until all law-abiding gun owners are disarmed, and only the criminals have guns.”
In a video posted to the group’s social media accounts, Rhodes suggested they would also challenge the other laws if they could find a citizen with legal standing to sue.
While Republicans have vowed to fight any attempt to implement a ban on assault weapons, a ban seems extremely unlikely, with just a little over a week before lawmakers adjourn.
Students and others at the rally say they’ll keep marching for as long as necessary.