Demands for gun reform heard at rally in Boulder

Former Senate President John Morse advocates assault weapons ban, says Gov. Polis should face primary challenge

Former Colorado Senate President John Morse spoke at a gun reform rally in downtown Boulder on April 18, 2021. (John Herrick for Colorado Newsline)

Though Gov. Jared Polis had said he would sign gun reforms into law this week, Boulder residents and elected officials are demanding that he support a statewide assault-style weapons ban. 

“We’re fired up. We’re gonna keep pushing him,” said Annette Moore, a co-founder with Blue Rising, a Denver-based liberal political action committee that helped organize a rally in Boulder on Sunday. “We want it to go to his desk and make him veto it.”

Nearly 200 residents gathered at the downtown Glen Huntington Bandshell to demand gun reforms in the wake of the south Boulder King Soopers shooting on March 22 in which the accused gunman allegedly used a Ruger AR-556 pistol, widely considered to be an assault weapon.

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This year, Colorado Democrats, who control both chambers of the state Legislature and the governor’s office, passed bills on the reporting of lost and stolen firearms and storage requirements. Polis signed the bills into law Monday. 

But Polis has been noncommittal about supporting an assault weapons ban. In 2013, the then-congressman opposed such a measure as a violation of the Second Amendment, according to The Denver Post. And earlier this month he told CPR he was “not concerned about the model of the gun” used in the King Soopers shooting and wanted instead to strengthen background checks. 

Jeanine Pow, of the League of Women Voters of Boulder County, displayed a poster with the tally of all the mass shootings since March 16, 2021, during a gun reform rally in downtown Boulder on April 18, 2021. (John Herrick for Colorado Newsline)

Speakers at the event were bothered by the governor’s lack of support for an assault weapons ban. Former Senate President John Morse said he would like to see Polis face a Democratic primary challenger ahead of the 2022 election if he failed to support such a ban. 

“I will not vote for Jared Polis in the next election,” Morse told the crowd. “And frankly, if they don’t get this done, I need that next election, frankly, to be a primary.” 

Morse, who represented El Paso County, was recalled in 2013 following his support for a statewide high-capacity magazine ban and background checks for gun purchases. So was his colleague Sen. Angela Giron, a Pueblo Democrat. The end of Morse’s career in the state Senate has come to symbolize the potential political consequences of gun reform. But he said he wants to flip the script. 

“In 2013, it’s true. If you voted for gun safety you risked getting thrown out of office. Today, we need to make it such that if you fail to vote for gun safety, you never win another election as long as you live.” 

From the stage, he tweeted: “If you don’t pass an assault weapons ban by the end of this legislative session, I will never vote for you again.” He asked the crowd to follow him and retweet. 

In 2018, Boulder passed an assault weapons ban. But, just 10 days before King Soopers shooting, a Boulder District Court Judge blocked the city from enforcing its ordinance, ruling only the state or the federal government can enforce such gun regulations in Colorado. 

The accused gunman was using a gun allegedly purchased in Arvada. But Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver, who spoke at the event, said Colorado needs to pass a bill to repeal a provision in state law that effectively preempts local governments from enacting gun safety measures that are more strict than state law. 

“The very least that the state Legislature should do is get the hell out of the city’s way and let other cities pass these pieces of legislation,” Weaver told the crowd. 

He said cities would then end up passing assault weapons bans, indicating that most residents want such laws passed in Colorado. 

“Then why don’t you pass one? Why don’t you ask the governor to sign that law?” 

Anna Segur of Boulder holds a sign at a gun reform rally in downtown Boulder on April 18, 2021. (John Herrick for Colorado Newsline)

Several former and current elected officials attended the rally, including former Colorado House Speaker KC Becker of Boulder, Rep. Edie Hooton of Boulder, and Rep. Judy Amabile of Boulder. Boulder City Council members Mark Wallach, Rachel Friend and Adam Swetlik also attended the event.

Tim Hernández, a 24-year-old high school teacher from Denver, called on these Boulder City Council members to cut spending on its police force, which he said also contributes to gun-related deaths at the hands of police. 

“Our local elected officials are responsible in your municipality for your police budget,” Hernández said, at times speaking directly to City Council members. “We understand that the public should not have access to weapons of mass killing and we understand that we don’t want people to die at the hands of guns. Why is it different when it comes to police?” 

Hernández’s speech was a reminder of the Black Lives Matter unrest still raging amid the recent police shooting in Chicago of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis former police officer charged with murder for the killing George Floyd. According to the New York Times, three people per day have died at the hands of law enforcement since the trial began on March 29. 

“We need gun reform for police too,” he said. “We need a demilitarization of the police.” 

As of April 18, the Gun Violence Archive, a data collection and research group, has tallied 151 mass shootings so far this year. A mass shooting is defined as one in which four or more people are injured or killed. 

As people shuffled off on Sunday afternoon, a woman said into the microphone that there was yet another shooting in Austin, Texas that afternoon. At least three people are confirmed dead.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:07 p.m., April 19, 2021, to include remarks from Annette Moore and to state that Gov. Jared Polis signed two gun reform bills into law Monday.

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