Colorado Democrats ditched the state’s firearm preemption law last year, allowing localities to impose their own gun control restrictions that go beyond the laws approved by the state legislature. While most municipalities didn’t immediately turn around and start passing new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms, a number of cities have apparently been quietly working behind the scenes to craft local ordinances that are designed to impose new criminal sanctions on those exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Leading the way is Boulder, Colorado, which appears poised to reinstate a ban on so-called assault weapons that was previously struck down for violating the state’s now-voided preemption law.
The ban, originally instituted in 2018 in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was deemed invalid by Boulder District Court last year, 10 days before a gunman killed 10 people at the King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive.
Judge Andrew Hartman ruled March 12 that only state or federal laws can prohibit the possession, sale and transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. Colorado had passed laws “that are effectively a scheme preempting local governments from enacting municipal firearms and magazine possession ordinances,” according to court documents.
However, following the King Soopers shooting, that changed.
“Partly in response to that tragedy, the state Legislature repealed the preemption statute,” City Attorney Teresa Tate said.
The original ban, which officials previously admitted would be hard to enforce, bans certain pistols and semiautomatic rifles with pistol grips, a folding or telescoping stock or any protruding grip that allows a weapon to be stabilized with the nontrigger hand.
In addition to the assault weapons ban, the City Council on Tuesday directed city staff to work on additional regulations regarding firearms.
Examples provided by Tate included strengthening regulations regarding open carrying, prohibiting the carry of firearms in sensitive areas and a waiting period for the purchase of firearms.
It’s not just Boulder. Other suburbs are also planning their own local ordinances, and the Daily Camera newspaper reports that some activists are suggesting a coordinated unveiling of the proposals on March 22nd, the one-year anniversary of the shootings at the Boulder grocery store.
Now, if these were serious proposals that actually had a chance of reducing violent crime or stopping active shooters, Boulder and the other Denver suburbs would be rushing to put these new ordinances in place. Instead, these city council members are happy to delay the official introduction (not to mention any attempt at enforcement) until a more symbolically significant time.
Unfortunately, while the implementation of these new proposals may be centered around symbolism, the ordinances themselves are likely to have very real consequences for gun owners in Colorado, who will soon have to deal with a patchwork quilt of local gun laws that can vary depending on what side of the street you might be driving. These local misdemeanors aren’t going to actually stop anyone with evil intentions, but they’re going to play hell with legal gun owners and firearm retailers.
Take the proposed waiting period for gun purchases that Boulder’s city attorney mentioned. The vast majority of criminals aren’t obtaining their firearms through commercial sales in the first place, so this is one of those ordinances that seems designed to be more of a burden on the law-abiding than anything else. It also has the potential to put Boulder gun stores out of business by imposing additional restrictions on the lawful purchase of a firearm; restrictions that might not exist if you don’t mind driving an extra 10 or 20 miles. How many gun owners in Boulder are going to continue shopping at their local gun shop if they can avoid dealing with the city’s nonsensical policy prescriptions just by getting in their car and heading to another suburb or the nearest rural county?
Of course for the city council in Boulder, that would be a bonus, not a bug in their legislation. They’d love to run gun stores out of town, closely followed by gun owners themselves.
Stay tuned, because just as Boulder’s last gun ban was struck down by the courts, I suspect that any new local ordinances imposed by that city or other Denver suburbs are going to be legally challenged as well; not as a violation of the state’s preemption law, but as a violation of the Second Amendment rights of Colorado residents.