While there’s still a lot we don’t know about the shooting in Boulder, Colorado that left ten people dead on Monday, the media is already starting to craft a narrative that more gun control laws could have prevented the attack. One focus of the anti-gun media: a ban on so-called assault weapons that was put in place in Boulder back in 2018. Just last week a state judge blocked the ban from being enforced because it violated the state’s firearm preemption law, and already outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post are highlighting the judge’s decision and inferring that, had it been left in place, maybe the shooting wouldn’t have happened.
As of early Tuesday, police have yet to identify the suspect or release any details about his weapon, how he purchased it, or if the ordinance would have prevented him from buying or possessing the weapon within city limits. Police told the Denver Post and CNN that he was reported to have been carrying a rifle.
Yet, for Dawn Reinfeld, co-founder of the Colorado gun violence prevention group Blue Rising, the “appalling” timing of the court decision was hard to ignore.
“We tried to protect our city,” she told The Washington Post. “It’s so tragic to see the legislation struck down, and days later, to have our city experience exactly what we were trying to prevent.”
The tragedy is the fact that ten people were shot and killed on Monday, not the fact that the city’s attempt to ban commonly-owned firearms was struck down as a violation of the state’s firearm preemption law. It defies credulity to think that the suspect in this case would have abided by a law banning possession of his firearm inside the city limits, while at the same time he was willing to ignore the prohibition against murdering innocent people.
Colorado State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D), who ran for office after his son Alex was killed in the Aurora movie theater shooting, said he helped lobby the statehouse in Denver for background checks and magazine limits. Neither Congress nor the state legislature, he noted, had the political capital to go as far as Boulder City Council.
“The assault weapons put the ‘mass’ in the ‘shootings,’ ” he told The Post. “That’s what gets the numbers up. That’s what gets the assault weapons that were able to fire as many rounds as were fired … in the theater, in the schools, in Parkland.”
Colorado already has a magazine ban on the books, which was put in place in 2013. Since that law was put on the books, along with a universal background check requirement, violent crime in Colorado has actually increased, even before the crime spike in 2020 that was seen in many cities across the country, including Denver. As for Sullivan’s assertion that it’s the type of firearm that “gets the numbers up,” we’ve unfortunately seen shootings where handguns were used that also resulted in a large number of fatalities. At Virginia Tech, for instance, the killer used two handguns and took the lives of 32 people before killing himself. Ultimately, it’s the person, not the inanimate object that they use, that’s responsible.
I wish that we lived in a political environment where the calls for new gun control laws at least waited until we learned the names of the victims, but that’s not part of the gun control movement’s messaging playbook, which depends on using tragedies like this for maximum political gain. We haven’t even been told by police whether in fact an AR-style rifle was used in this crime, but already Boulder’s gun ban is becoming fodder for state-level gun control activists like Reinfeld, as well as for national gun control groups intent on passing the gun and magazine ban that was the centerpiece of Joe Biden’s anti-gun agenda as a presidential candidate.
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