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Democrat-backed gun bills make gains at the State Capitol

Assault weapons and hand guns for sale.
Seth Perlman
Assault weapons and hand guns for sale.

Three bills that would expand gun regulations in Colorado moved forward at the State Capitol Wednesday as part of Democrats’ efforts to address gun violence.

Senate Bill 170 would expand Colorado’s red flag laws, formally called Extreme Risk Protection Orders or ERPO laws. The bill would add teachers, doctors and mental health professionals to the list of people allowed to request the confiscation of personal firearms in court if the gun owner poses a threat to themself or others. Currently, law enforcement officers, family and household members of a gun owner have the right to request firearm removal under the state's red flag laws.

Senate President Steve Fenberg, one of the bill’s sponsors, said lawmakers have a mandate to address gun violence.

“When you're talking about matters of life and death, it is our job to have conversations with the community, with each other, with advocates, with people who have real life lived experiences that have been touched by gun violence, for us to constantly be asking ourselves, what can we do to continue to move forward in saving lives?,” Fenberg said.

In cases where red flag laws are used to remove someone’s guns, experts say it is hard to know for sure whether an act of gun-violence would still have occurred without the law. Arecent study that looked at six states with red flag laws, however, found that the laws were invoked hundreds of times since their inception in response to threats of mass shootings.

Another bill, Senate Bill 168, would eliminate immunity for gun stores and manufacturers to make it easier for victims of gun violence to sue them. Currently, manufacturers are protected from liability by both state and federal law.

Bill sponsor Sen. Chris Kolker said members of the gun industry should be subject to the same accountability as other industries.

This bill will ensure that victims harmed by violations have their day in court to prove—like other victims of any other industry—that the members’ misconduct caused their harm,” Kolker said.

The third bill, Senate Bill 169, would raise the minimum purchasing age for guns to 21 with some exemptions for hunters, active duty military and police officers.

According to the Giffords Law Center, people 18 to 21 years old only make up 4% of the US population butare responsible for 17% of gun homicides. The organization also found evidence that raising the purchasing age lowers suicide rates among the same age group.

Republicans, however, oppose the bills saying they violate the U.S. Constitution and would fail to adequately address gun violence.

Democrats also introduced a controversial bill last week that would essentially ban assault weapons in Colorado. House Bill 1230 would make it a misdemeanor to manufacture, import, buy, sell, offer to sell or transfer an assault weapon. It would also outlaw rapid-fire trigger modifications on firearms.

All of the bills, except the newly-introduced assault weapons ban, were approved by the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee along party lines and will move on to preliminary votes in the Senate.

Copyright 2023 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Lucas Brady Woods