Local Leaders May Be Forced to Throw in the Towel in Halting Gun Control Laws

Four Firearm Restriction Laws Poised For Governor’s Signature; Several More Ready For Legislative Firing

Rick Langenberg

The Teller County commissioners and other elected leaders from rural areas have definitely lost the fight against a bombardment of more gun control laws, a battle raging at the state Capitol on a daily basis.

This is one of the trigger issues in the 2023 legislative session, which is entering the final stages.  But big question marks linger on the actual impacts of these pending laws for our local area that sports one of the highest gun ownership rates, per capita, in the nation.

Last week, the final of four gun control bills gained apparent approval, even despite dramatic attempts for amendments and filibusters. The last gun control measure, HB 1219, would establish a three-day waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and the actual delivery.

The proponents of this legislation wanted the extra time to for a cooling-off period, for those contemplating suicide or homicide.

It accompanies three other gun control plans, which appear ready for Governor Jared Polis’ signature.

The gun control issue in  Colorado has not been without drama with the Republicans insisting that all bills be read in full and then attempting various techniques to slow down the momentum. The Democrats, in turn, sought what some called the “nuclear option,” which would have shut down virtually any debate on these proposals.

There are several more gun laws  ready to get revved up, including a measure that would allow for counties to outlaw the discharge of a firearm within neighborhoods where there are at least 35 dwellings, per square mile. This one has prompted much discussion at Teller County commissioner forums.

Also, lawmakers will soon take up a plan to ban so-called assault weapons; and another proposal to not allow anyone convicted of aggravated motor theft from possessing firearms. Actually, the latter of these future laws is the only one that both the Democrats and Republicans agree on.

No Way to Slow Down the Fervor for Gun Control

Despite their staunch efforts in testifying and in hitting the political trail, the Teller County commissioners and other rural representatives have not been able to slow down the state support for gun control due to the super majorities the Dems now have in state House and Senate. A much more progressive cadre of leaders have taken office in the state General Assembly; a number of whom are new lawmakers with some taking a more idealistic stand than what occurred legislatively in the past.   “We just didn’t see this coming,” said Solomon Malick, the head lobbyist for the city of Cripple Creek, in discussing the outcome of the Nov. election at a recent meeting in Cripple Creek. This resulted in unprecedented gains for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Also, timing is on the side of the Dems, with several highly publicized school shootings, along with the massacre in a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub. The latter incident garnered national attention, and may have helped propel a definite movement for more gun restrictions, or expanding the current Red Flag law.

On the upside, Stone has stated that several  of these measures face definite court challenges. He said he has emphasized that by passing these measures, the state lawmakers would go down the same path as before, when Colorado passed some of more stern gun controls for a Western pro-hunting state. This eventually resulted in a successful recall campaign against one of the prime Senate leaders, who sponsored several of these earlier anti-gun efforts. It also sparked much opposition from law enforcement leaders in the area, who stated they didn’t plan to enforce the new laws. A number of local meetings were also held, with residents expressing much anger.

However, many more mass shootings have occurred across the country and in Colorado since the state passed earlier gun control laws. And with gun control stalled at the national level,  more pressure is building for these firearm restrictions to occur in individual states. Stone and other county  leaders, though, believe that  state lawmakers are overreacting to these shootings, as many Republicans have cited mental health problems and the lack of available resources for these individuals as the main obstacle.

Gun Control Legislative Winners

Besides the measure approved law week, another gun control measure that appears to be a sure bet is Senate Bill 170.

This  would expand the Red Flag law by adding district attorneys, teachers, school counselors, college faculty and health care professionals, to the group of people who can apply for an extreme risk protection order. The Red Flag law was approved in Colorado several years ago, but records indicate  that it hasn’t been used much. Gun control advocates are questioning if a  few of the massive shootings could have been avoided if the Red Flag law was implemented better.

In addition, another pro-gun control legislative winner is Senate Bill 169, which raises the minimum age for buying a firearm from 18 to 21. This one has ignited extreme outrage by the county commissioners during several public meetings.

Stone said the measure is so poorly written that it is obvious the bill authors never owned or operated a firearm in their life. Commissioner Dan Williams went further and noted that an 18-year-old individual can serve his/her country in combat, but can’t own a firearm. He questioned the constitutionality of such a law.

This measure, though, has been amended to permit certain exceptions, such as permitting those under 21 to possess a firearm, but not own one.

The other pro-gun control proposal, slated for almost definite final approval by the governor, is Senate Bill 168. This allows victims of gun violence to sue firearms manufacturers or dealers in civil court when a standard code of conduct outlined in the bill is violated. It was amended to name it after Jessica Redfield Ghawi, one of the victims in the Aurora Theater shootings in 2012.