Colorado House panel kills 'assault weapons' ban
FROM: Marianne Goodland, Colorado Politics Apr 19, 2023 Updated 6 hrs ago
Thank you to all the pro- 2nd amendment citizens who showed up to testify!! Praise the Lord that our legislators actually listened! LKY
Legislation that sought to ban so-called "assault weapons" died early Thursday morning after three Democrats joined the Colorado House Judiciary Committee's Republicans to kill the bill on a 7-6 vote.
Shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday, Democratic Reps. Bob Marshall of Highlands Ranch, Said Sharbini of Westminster and Marc Snyder of Colorado Springs voted down the legislation along with their Republican colleagues after a pair of amendments to ban bump stocks and rapid-fire trigger activators were lost.
A subsequent vote to postpone the bill indefinitely drew one additional Democratic vote from Rep. Lindsay Daugherty of Arvada.
The nearly 15-hour hearing, which kicked off Wednesday morning, drew a 2023 record 522 witnesses seeking to testify.
The bill — sponsored by Rep. Elisabeth Epps, D-Denver — has divided the Democrats' Gun Violence Prevention Caucus, with leading members, such as Sen. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, believing other measures, such as his proposal to improve the red flag law, are better solutions to gun violence.
When Democratic lawmakers unveiled a package of four gun control bills on Feb. 23, the assault weapons ban was notably not among them. Nor did lawmakers mention it.
In addition, Gov. Jared Polis is also believed to be opposed to an assault weapons ban.
Those who support gun control measures claim it's an issue better addressed at the federal level, such as the ban that existed for a decade that started in the Clinton administration.
Under HB 1230, "assault weapons" — a nonspecific term — is defined in several ways:
a semiautomatic rifle that can accept a detachable magazine, along with modifications, such as a pistol grip, a detachable stock, a flash suppressor or a grenade launcher;
a semiautomatic rifle with a fixed large-capacity magazine or a semiautomatic pistol with the same list of possible modifications;
a semiautomatic shotgun, including those that can accept the same modifications;
a semiautomatic firearm that can accept a belt ammunition feeding device or a semiautomatic firearm modified to be operable as an "assault weapon" as defined in the bill
Ban on 'bump stocks'
But the final bill that emerges might be markedly different than its introductory version.
Epps announced early on in Wednesday's hearing that she is considering an amendment to remove all the firearms identified in the bill — except for a ban on "bump stocks," an attachment that allows a semiautomatic rifle to fire like a machine gun.
A bump stock allowed the Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 others in 2017 to fire rapidly into the crowd at a country music concert.
However, as of press time, Epps had not asked for committee approval of the amendment.
A federal ban on bump stocks, implemented under the Trump administration, is on hold pending court appeals.
House Republicans decried the decision to bring forward an amendment that no one knew about, saying the hundreds of witnesses opposed to the measure would not have an opportunity to address what the bill could ultimately look like.
House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, noted that a record number of people have signed up to oppose the measure. He called Epps' plan to change the bill without warning an insult to the witnesses.
"The result remains uncertain, but we're seeing a pushback ... (against) a radical agenda of disarming our citizens," he said.
But Lynch also asked why lawmakers are "wasting more time" on the issue of gun control.
He said while lawmakers spend another full day on a gun bill, what's being left behind with just 18 days left in the 2023 session are issues affecting every Coloradan, such as proposals to make things safer so they don't worry about crime or address the housing crisis.
"We're spending inordinate amounts of time on an issue that we've beat to death this session. We're running out of time," he said.
Opponents warn of lawsuits
Among the hundreds of opponents, Daniel Fenalson of the Colorado State Shooting Association said the bill will not stop any shooting, including at the school where he, too, became a survivor. The bill would only create more victims, he said, including victims of domestic violence who want to defend themselves.
That testimony also came, and was echoed by others, with a warning: lawsuits will follow.
Adam Dill of Boulder County pointed out the costs for the state of defending such lawsuits will be immense.
"We must consider the financial burden of a lengthy battle," he told the committee members.
Disarming citizens will make them more vulnerable to crime, particularly for people of color, women, LGBTQ and those with disabilities, added Carynn Rudolph-Porter, who owns Goliath Tactical Firearms Training.
"As a Black, lesbian woman, a mother, a survivor of sexual assault, a disabled veteran, a social worker, and a certified firearms instructor, I believe that this proposed ban is detrimental to the greater community and a violation of our human right," she said.
Several gun store owners also spoke in opposition, claiming the bill is intended to put them out of business. One said the bill is based on a lack of familiarity about what "assault weapons" are and added that HB 1230 will turn law-abiding citizens, including firearms dealers, into criminals.
The bill also drew opposition from five county sheriffs, including Sheriff Darren Weekly of Douglas County, who said the bill would make commonly owned firearms illegal to purchase, sell or transfer.
"We must not compromise individual liberties under the guise of safety," Weekly said.
As of press time, witnesses are still testifying on the bill and the hearing is expected to continue late into the night.