Saturday, April 29, 2023 (Originally published April 28, 2023)
By Sara Wilson
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed four bills into law Friday morning regulating firearms in the state.
“Coloradans deserve to be safe in our communities, in our schools, our grocery stores, nightclubs and everywhere in between,” Polis said during the signing ceremony at the Capitol, surrounded by gun-control advocates.
The new laws raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21, impose a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, expand the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law and make it easier for gun violence survivors to sue the gun industry.
“Yes, it is about the guns. And it’s about so many other things also. That’s why these bills are so important because it really does address it from multiple angles,” Senate President Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, said. “It’s obviously not one bill, or four bills, that’s going to make the difference to end the tragedies in our communities. It’s a collection of policies and changes.”
Under Senate Bill 23-170, district attorneys, educators, mental health professionals and other medical providers will be able to petition a judge to confiscate guns from a potentially dangerous person. Previously, only law enforcement and family members had that power under the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law, also known as the red flag law, which was created in 2019.
The expansion aims to increase utilization of the process and extend the petition authority to people who interact with an at-risk person regularly. It is a recognition that some law enforcement officials have been reluctant to use the red flag law when potentially appropriate due to concerns over the Second Amendment.
“What this bill has done is remove that barrier to expand it to people who know folks are challenging, who believe in the notion that people who cannot handle firearms, people who are in crisis and people who refuse to use them responsibly should not have them,” bill sponsor House Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon, a Denver Democrat, said.
The bill was sponsored by Bacon, Senate President Steve Fenberg of Boulder, Sen. Tom Sullivan of Centennial and Rep. Mike Weissman of Aurora, all Democrats.
Two new laws concern when people can acquire firearms.
Senate Bill 23-169 raises the age to purchase any gun to 21 years old. Previously, the age restriction was 18 to buy a long gun and 21 to buy a handgun. There are exceptions for members of law enforcement and the military.
It was sponsored by Sen. Kyle Mullica of Thornton, Sen. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge House Minority Leader Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge and Rep. Eliza Hamrick of Centennial, all Democrats.
House Bill 23-1219 imposes a three-day waiting period for people to get a gun after they pay for it. Bill sponsors said that the delayed access to firearms will provide a cooling-off period for people in crisis who might harm themselves or others.
Cities will be able to establish longer waiting periods if they choose. If the purchaser’s background check takes longer than three days — which it rarely does — they would still need to wait until the background check clears to get their gun.
It was sponsored by Sullivan, Sen. Chris Hansen of Denver, Rep. Meg Froelich of Englewood and Judy Amabile of Boulder, all Democrats.
Boulder City Council last year implemented a 10-day waiting period to purchase a firearm in the city, one of several new restrictions on the sale and possession of guns. Boulder also raised the age limit for purchase from 18 to 21.
Finally, Senate Bill 23-168 removes a state protection for gun and ammunition dealers and manufactures against lawsuits. Previously, plaintiffs had to pay the legal fees for defendants in dismissed cases involving gun sellers. That is no longer the case.
The law makes the gun industry susceptible to lawsuits under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.
The original version of the bill included a specific code of conduct for gun manufacturers to take precautions so their products don’t end up with a retailer who “fails to establish and implement reasonable controls.” That provision was amended out.
“??We finally, after 23 years of waiting, can open up Colorado courtrooms to gun violence victims and survivors seeking justice,” bill sponsor Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, a Longmont Democrat, said.
It was sponsored by Sen. Chris Kolker of Centennial, Rep. Javier Mabrey of Denver and Rep. Jennifer Parenti of Erie, all Democrats.
Less than an hour after the bill signing, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners leader Taylor Rhodes announced on Twitter that the group had already filed cases challenging the minimum age requirement and waiting period laws. He said they are seeking plaintiffs who could establish standing against the other two new laws.
The group sued Boulder over its ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The city voluntarily halted enforcement of those provisions in August.
Lawmakers are also considering a bill that would outlaw unserialized firearms, also known as ghost guns. The Senate passed it on second reading on Thursday and is poised to approve final passage Friday before the legislation heads over to the House.
Another firearm bill that would have banned semi-automatic weapons in the state died in its first committee hearing last week.
The Legislature adjourns on May 8.
Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence.
Shay Castle contributed reporting from Boulder.
Governance Boulder city council city of Boulder Colorado Colorado Legislature Colorado Newsline firearm ghost guns gun control gun violence Jared Polis Judy Amabile red flag laws Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Steve Fenberg