From the Opinion Panel: Gun violence prevention in Boulder

Photo by Michael Howard via Flickr Creative Commons

City council is considering a suite of new ordinances designed to prevent gun violence, including a ban on assault weapons, a 10-day waiting period to purchase firearms, an open carry ban, and restrictions on concealed carry in churches, preschools, and other designated public places. Your thoughts?

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Andrea Steffes-Tuttle: Gun control is the first step toward a better future for our kids

I was a junior at Monarch High School when the Columbine High School shooting happened. The memory is still clear. I was on my way to track practice when a team member shared the news — there was a shooting at a school in Colorado. Several students were suspected dead. I felt helpless. What was there to do? Surely, the adults would do something. Someone would fix whatever oversight had allowed this to happen. But no one fixed anything. 

Gun violence has become a distinctly American problem. The unspeakable sadness that we all experience in the wake of yet another mass shooting is amplified by the recognition that nothing will change. Given that I’m writing this on the heels of the massacres in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, I imagine readers are freshly reacquainted with the scope of America’s gun problem. 

It’s unbelievable that our country and its leadership can’t seem to make any meaningful change to reduce gun violence and make our country safer. The only relief I’m finding in the deluge of tragedies is that Boulder is looking to institute new gun control laws.

I hope we pass these measures and then more. For instance, I suggest that we require gun owners to maintain liability insurance, similar to the law San Jose, California, just passed. Just as car insurance is mandatory when purchasing a car, gun owners should be required to maintain insurance to purchase and keep their weapon(s). 

It’s been 23 years since the Columbine Shooting. Today, I’m a new mom. My son is five months old. Every single day, I think about the threat of gun violence that he will experience in this country. It makes me sad and angry that my life is infused with the fear of getting shot anywhere a crowd is gathered.

I am grateful to our city representatives for prioritizing gun control. I hope that Boulder, its neighboring cities and Colorado enact more gun safety measures soon so that when my son starts school, I can spend more time worrying about his education than I do about whether he’s going to die in a mass shooting or be traumatized by active shooter drills. 

I’d like to imagine a future when our kids can live their lives without the persistent fear of being senselessly gunned down. Boulder’s proposed rule changes could be a first step toward that future.

Andrea is a graduate student, business owner, activist, writer, new mom, and Boulder-native. More about Andrea.

Mike Chiropolos: Don’t take your guns to town

The March 22, 2021, mass shooting at Boulder’s Table Mesa King Soopers left us numb. We were numb again this month when 10 people were shot and killed at a Buffalo food store and 21 people — 19 children and two teachers — at a rural Texas elementary school.

I wrote about my visceral reaction that night, the Second Amendment, and healing here. It hit me that there but for the grace of the Gods go we — all of us. It could have been, and could be, any one of us, anywhere in the land, on any given day.

We won’t rest until we make good on our pledges of #neveragain. We can and we will, because public-spirited gun control to make our communities safer is as old as the fabled Old WestGun safety was such an obvious public good that an attempt to challenge lawmen’s bans on public carry in town would have been laughed out of the territorial court in a hypothetical legal challenge.

Across the land, town by town and state by state, we need to summon the resolve that made once lawless cattle towns like Abilene, Deadwood and Dodge City safe to live, work, raise a family and attend school — in the 1880s. The solution was as simple as the Johnny Cash song, Don’t Take Your Guns to Town

We need to:

1.) Require meaningful universal background checks — not just conducted by the vendor interested in closing a sale;

2.) Raise the age to 21 or 25. Car rental companies require customers to be 25, and a majority of school shooters are under 20;

and 3.) Renew the 1994 assault weapons ban passed by Congress that was allowed to lapse in 2004. It worked. Researchers concluded that it “resulted in a significant decrease in public mass shootings,” gun deaths and injuries.

The glut of recent massacres in both red and blue states shows those measures are not enough. We need to address the 2nd Amendment (2A): “A well ordered Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

As a nation we need to:

  •       Honor the 2A;
  •       Repeal the 2A; or
  •       Amend the 2A

The 2A conditions rights to arms on “a well regulated Militia”, which was ignored by the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision.

Ratification of a “freedom to live our lives,” safe from senseless gun violence, amendment to the Constitution will require passage by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and approval by three-fourths (38) of the states. The time and work that takes will pay off many times over.

Conventional wisdom will question whether it can be done. Few thought the American Revolution would win independence from the mightiest empire on the planet in 1776; fewer still thought Ukraine could survive Putin’s brutal invasion in 2022. Our rebellion prevailed, and Ukraine’s resistance will stand.

It’s time to choose civilization over the epidemic of fear driving widespread ownership of military grade weapons. While we’re at it, let’s pass an Equal Rights Amendment.

Mike Chiropolos raised two sons in Boulder where he lived a mile from the Table Mesa shopping center. More about Mike.

Claudia Hanson Thiem: Local gun ordinances are symbolic. We should pass them anyway.

When Boulder first attempted to restrict assault rifles in 2018, I agreed with the goals but was skeptical about the approach. What could a small city actually accomplish in a country enamored with violence and awash in guns? 

That question remains, but this time feels different.

Mainstream political discourse places a high value on laws that are rational and enforceable. There should be direct pathways from policy to desired outcomes. Stricter laws, fewer weapons, less bloodshed and death. And Boulder’s proposed gun ordinances are certainly couched in this logic. We want to believe.

But in 2022, guns are so mobile, gun culture so pervasive, and a subset of gun owners so provocative, that it’s hard to imagine any local policies meeting that standard.

We should pass them anyway. They may be symbolic, but they are a step towards reclaiming a narrative that with each threat, each shooting, and each legislative block slides further into powerlessness and despair.

By approving gun control ordinances, we say to each other that we are not a community that welcomes trading weapons in the shadows. We are not a community that accepts naked displays of aggression and intimidation. Where we enable and condone impulsive violence, whether intimate or between strangers. Where we resign ourselves to anxiety in our shrinking public sphere. We are not a community that gives up on saying no to wrongs, even if we can’t right them by ourselves.

Moving beyond symbolism ultimately requires breaking the gun industry’s grip on state and national governments, and anyone nodding along with local efforts should support the larger groups that are organized for those fights. Moms Demand Action. Everytown. March for Our Lives. As with most just causes, there’s no need to reinvent a movement, but always a need for time, money and authentic voices.

Here in Boulder, we can stand with our neighbors and community leaders — vulnerable and responsible to one another — and use these historic ordinances to state our shared values. The nihilism of gun culture is not, can not, and will not be our way.

Claudia Hanson Thiem lives and parents in Boulder, and breathes city politics through work with Boulder Progressives, Boulder Library Champions and the Boulder Housing Network. More about Claudia.


Boulder Beat Opinion Panel members are writing in their own capacity. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of Boulder Beat.

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1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. Mentally ill people who threaten violence must be taken seriously, and placed into a secure psychiatric facility for treatment until they are no longer a danger to themselves or others.

    I always make it a point to read reports on the backgrounds of mass shooters, and almost without exception they have RED FLAGS that reasonable authorities should have heeded. But, for whatever reasons, the potential killers are usually left running around loose.

    Time for this to change! Involuntary civil commitment is in the laws of all 50 states and D.C. Granted, it’s much easier to focus on gun control, but with 300M firearms already available in our society that is truly a Fool’s Errand. (BTW, every time the politicians start talking about new gun restrictions sales of both guns and ammunition rise significantly.)

    Nothing being proposed in Boulder, CO would prevent another mass shooting. It’s all for show, and votes from the gullible at the next election.

    Max R. Weller
    Mesa Vista of Boulder
    2121 Mesa Dr.
    Boulder, CO 80304

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