Colorado’s governor signs 4 gun-control bills into

DENVER — Colorado’s governor signed four gun-control bills Friday, following the lead of other states struggling to confront a nationwide surge in violent crime and mass shootings, despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expanded Second Amendment rights.

The new laws restrict gun purchases to people age 21 and older; create a three-day waiting period before a purchaser can take possession of the firearm; expand who can file so-called red flag laws to include medical care providers, mental health care providers, educators and district attorneys; and remove liability protections for gun manufacturers in lawsuits.

Immediately after Gov. Jared Polis signed the measures, gun-rights groups sued to reverse two of the measures: raising the buying age and establishing a three-day waiting period between the purchase and receipt of a gun. The courts are already weighing lawsuits over such restrictions in other states.

“Gun owners’ rights are being ravaged in the Colorado legislature,” Taylor Rhodes, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said in a statement that also called lawmakers “puppets” of gun violence reduction advocates. “And they will not be happy until all law-abiding gun owners are disarmed and only the criminals have guns.”

All four bills passed with only Democratic support in the Legislature, where the party holds a supermajority in the House and a near supermajority in the Senate. A fifth bill to ban so-called ghost guns — firearms that lack serial numbers, such as those sold in build-it-yourself-kits — is working its way through the Legislature.

They were enacted just five months after a mass shooting at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs.

[DOCUMENT: Read Colorado’s expanded red flag law » arkansasonline.com/429sb170/]

“Coloradoans deserve to be safe in our communities, in our schools, in our grocery stores, in our nightclubs,” Polis said as he signed the measures in his office. The governor was flanked by activists wearing red shirts reading, “Moms Demand Action,” students from a Denver high school recently affected by a shooting and parents of a woman killed in the Aurora theater shooting in 2012.

Supportive lawmakers and citizens alike had tears in their eyes and roared their applause as Polis signed each bill. Colorado has a history of notorious mass shootings, reaching back to the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

“No action can ever bring back the loved one that you lost,” Polis said. “But turning your own personal tragedy into action in a way that will make others safer will really prevent others from having to go through what you went through.”

Republicans decried the bills as onerous encroachments on Second Amendment rights that would impede Colorado residents’ ability to defend themselves amid a rising statewide crime rate. Gun-rights advocates pledged to reverse the measures.

“It’s a sad day for Colorado; we are becoming one of the most anti-Second Amendment states in the nation,” said Republican Rep. Mike Lynch, the House minority leader.

“We know the vast majority of Colorado gun owners go above and beyond to follow the law. But as usual, Democrats want to punish the majority for the criminal or tragic actions of the few. This policy has never been successful and has been rejected in the past,” Lynch said.

A third measure passed by the Legislature will strengthen the state’s red flag law, and a fourth rolls back some legal protections for the firearm industry, exposing them to lawsuits from the victims of gun violence.

Lynch anticipates that the magnitude of the gun restrictions — along with other bills Democrats pushed this year — will incite a backlash in the next election, especially in swing districts that helped reinforce Democrats’ majority in the legislature.

The new red flag law, also called an extreme risk protection order, empowers those working closely with youths and adults — doctors, mental health professionals and teachers — to petition a judge to temporarily remove someone’s firearm. Previously, petition power was limited mainly to law enforcement and family members. The goal is to act preemptively before someone attempts suicide or attacks others.

[DOCUMENT: Read Colorado’s three other new gun laws » arkansasonline.com/429gunlaws/]


At the signing ceremony, Senate President Steve Fenberg, a Democrat and one of the bill’s sponsors, said Republicans and other gun-control opponents often respond to mass shootings by saying it’s too soon to talk about restricting firearms.

“It isn’t too soon. It’s too late for so many of the lost souls,” Fenberg said. “We needed to have done more to prevent what happened.”

Republicans argued that the law would discourage people — especially military veterans — from candidly speaking with medical doctors and mental health professionals for fear of having their weapons temporarily seized.

Lynch argued that while the shooting in Colorado Springs was often held up as a reason to pass these types of gun restrictions, “evidence shows they would’ve done absolutely nothing to stop that.”

“It kind of breaks my heart that we’re taking these tragic events … and we’re using those events to promote an agenda that doesn’t fix the problem,” he said.

The law requiring a three-day delay between buying and receiving a firearm — an attempt to curtail impulsive violence and suicide attempts — puts Colorado in line with nine other states, including California, Florida and Hawaii.

Colorado has the sixth-highest suicide rate in the country, with nearly 1,400 in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A RAND Corporation analysis of four studies found that waiting periods are linked to lower suicide-by-gun deaths.

Opponents raised concerns that people who need to defend themselves — such as victims of domestic violence — may not be able to get a gun in time to do so.

As the lawmakers debated the proposals earlier this year, a lobbyist for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners also argued against recent analyses that found firearms are a leading cause of death for children in the United States.

The statistic wasn’t true “if you remove black males in that age group,” the lobbyist, Kevin Lorusso, said. The comment drew audible reactions during that February hearing and led Rhodes to say that the lobbyist “misspoke.”

State Rep. Jennifer Bacon, a Denver Democrat and Black woman, invoked the incident during the bill signing ceremony. She called forward several other Black women at the signing to be seen for their work, including the incoming director of Mom’s Demand Action, the group’s legal adviser and state Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who lost her son to gun violence.

“These are faces of people who have quite literally, through this process, been delegitimized,” Bacon said. “People have tried to erase the tragedies that are happening in communities of color. … I come to this bill [signing] to remind people that our lives matter and that we are a part of this narrative through the tragedies through which you haven’t experienced. And quite honestly, watching people skip over that has been devastating.”


In raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, Colorado joins California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, New York and Rhode Island. Proponents point to now oft-cited data from the CDC showing that gun violence has overtaken vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in recent years.

At the ceremony, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser likened the new laws to the campaign for vehicle safety that spawned groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the forerunner of Moms Demand Action.

Rhodes had a different perspective.

“This is simply bigoted politicians doing what bigoted politicians do: discriminating against an age,” said Rhodes, referring to the new minimum age for gun purchases.

In their speeches about rolling back legal protections for gun manufacturers, lawmakers looked often to Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was slain in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. The parents tried to sue the companies that had sold the shooter ammunition and tear gas but were unsuccessful.

Ultimately, the couple ended up owing more than $200,000 in defense attorney fees and had to file for bankruptcy.

California, Delaware, New Jersey and New York have passed similar legislation over the past three years. Opponents of the bill argued that it would merely bog the firearms industry down in bogus lawsuits.

Information for this article was contributed by Jesse Bedayn of The Associated Press and by Nick Coltrain of The Denver Post (TNS).

  photo  Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, who lost their daughter in the mass shooting at a theatre in Aurora, Colo., look on before Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs four gun control bills into law during a ceremony, Friday, April 28, 2023, in the State Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
  photo  Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks before signing four gun control bills, Friday, April 28, 2023, in the State Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
  photo  FILE – Noah Reich, left, and David Maldonado, the Los Angeles co-founders of Classroom of Compassion, put up a memorial Nov. 22, 2022, with photographs of the five victims of a weekend mass shooting at a nearby gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo. Colorados governor signed four gun control bills Friday, April 28, 2023, edging the once-purple state closer to liberal-leaning governments in California and New York just months after a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, the latest in the states long history of notorious massacres. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
  photo  Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, who lost their daughter in the mass shooting at a theatre in Aurora, Colo., look on before Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs four gun control bills into law during a ceremony, Friday, April 28, 2023, in the State Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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