Colorado Dems Eying An End To State's Firearms Preemption Law

AP Photo/Steven Senne
While President Joe Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill are pushing for passage of new restrictions on background checks and a ban on commonly owned firearms and ammunition in the wake of the shooting in Boulder earlier this week, the Democrats in charge of the state legislature in Colorado are talking about scrapping the state’s firearm preemption law, which bars localities from imposing their own gun control restrictions that go beyond state law.
The reason? A ban on so-called assault weapons in Boulder that was struck down by a Colorado court ten days before the shooting at the King Sooper grocery store that left ten people dead. While the ban wouldn’t have prevented the shooting, even if it had remained in effect, some high-ranking Democrats say that localities should be able to go beyond state law in restricting the rights of their residents.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, of Boulder, said that lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Statehouse had lightly discussed repealing that 2003 law over the past week, but the talks accelerated among legislative leaders “only in the last 18 hours.”

“I didn’t know how relevant and timely it was until yesterday,” Fenberg said, adding, “it’s not like if the city of Boulder had had that ban in affect, that this wouldn’t have happened. But it doesn’t mean it’s not a relevant conversation and tool that communities should have.”

Of course, while Fenberg is fine with the idea of localities passing their own gun control laws, he doesn’t want to see communities move in the opposite direction.

Fenberg said he’d want to make sure that any repeal didn’t open the door for local control in what he views as the wrong way — that is, cities seizing on newfound regulatory authority in order to put in place gun policies that are more lenient than the state’s.

Why? If Fenberg believes that local governments should be able to set their own gun laws to best fit their needs, then why shouldn’t cities or counties be able to reject state-level gun control laws?

The simplest answer is because it’s not about empowering local communities, it’s about disenfranchising and disarming gun owners.

“Boulder banned assault weapons because it made us feel safer to do that,” [Democrat State Rep. Edie Hooten] said, adding later, “In this time, we need to mourn and pull together as a community and as a state, and we have to look at next steps. I think we all agree that something needs to be done. We may not agree on what the solutions are, but mass murders keep happening and what we’re doing right now isn’t working.”

What Democrats in Colorado have been doing for damn near a decade now is putting more gun control laws on the books, and Hooten’s right. It’s not working. Back in 2013, the state approved universal background checks and a ban on “high capacity” magazines. The result? Violent crime has increased every year since.

The Democrats in control of the state legislature approved a red flag law in 2019. The result? A continued increase in violent crime, and even though the suspect in the Boulder shooting has been described by family members as “deeply disturbed,” they apparently never sought to have his firearms temporarily removed, as the law allows.

If gun control advocates can’t point to one of their proposals that would have realistically prevented this attack, then maybe the answer isn’t more gun control laws, either at the state or local level. It’s telling that Hooten said the city of Boulder passed its gun ban because it made folks like her “feel safer.” It didn’t actually do anything to make anyone safer, however, and in the process it restricted the rights of legal gun owners.

If Democrats in Colorado get their way, get ready for a whole lot of new local laws that will make some folks feel safe without actually doing anything to protect them. Rather than doing “something,” lawmakers should be doing something of value like addressing the current crisis in the state’s mental health system, which routinely denies access and care to those in need.

That costs real money and requires real effort, unlike the soundbite solutions proposed by anti-gun lawmakers who’d rather slap another gun control law or two (or more) on the books before patting themselves on the back and telling the public that they’re safer as a result. Gun control is the easy way out for politicians who’d rather do “something” than do their actual jobs, and I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of do-something legislation coming out of Denver in the days ahead.


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