Cities, counties could craft stricter gun policies under Colorado bill up for Senate vote

House passes bill to strengthen firearm restrictions for domestic violence suspects

By: - May 18, 2021 5:00 am
Boulder shooting

Community members gather to mourn near the King Soopers grocery store on March 23, 2021, the day after a mass shooting that left 10 people dead Boulder. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

The March 22 mass shooting in Boulder, followed by another massacre weeks later in Colorado Springs, brought new urgency to Colorado Democrats’ gun policy plans.

Senate Bill 21-256 — sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg of Boulder and Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, along with Reps. Edie Hooton of Boulder and Lindsey Daugherty of Arvada — would allow cities, counties, colleges and special districts to pass stricter gun policies than those enacted by the state. Current Colorado law bars localities from adding regulations that go beyond state laws governing gun or ammunition sales, purchases and possession, or those governing where people can carry concealed weapons.

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Days before a shooter opened fire inside a Boulder King Soopers, killing 10 people, a judge found that Boulder’s local ordinance banning assault weapons violated state law. By getting rid of state “preemption” on local gun regulations, SB-256 would allow future bans like that one to remain in place.

The King Soopers shooter may have used a weapon that would meet the definition of “assault weapon” under Boulder’s previous ban, but police said he purchased the Ruger AR-556 pistol in Arvada, a nearby city that doesn’t ban assault weapons.

SB-256 earned initial approval in the Colorado Senate on Monday, and is scheduled for a final, recorded Senate vote Tuesday before it moves to the House for consideration.

The Senate passed an amendment to the bill that would prohibit cities and counties from criminally penalizing someone for breaking local gun laws unless they “knew or should have known” that the policy existed.

On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chris Holbert, a Douglas County Republican, said he believed all 15 GOP legislators would oppose the bill. That won’t matter when it comes to passing the bill, since Democrats hold the power in the Senate, House and governor’s office.

But Republicans said allowing local regulation of firearms — which could come in the form of a ban on a specific type of gun or ammunition, prohibition of concealed weapons on university campuses, or similar measures — would violate Coloradans’ constitutionally guaranteed right to carry firearms.

Meanwhile, Democrats sponsoring the legislation say it could save lives and personify the principle of “local control” that the state Constitution guarantees.

“Our country is plagued by gun violence,” Moreno said in a statement following the bill’s first committee hearing, pointing out that every day in the U.S. more than 100 people are killed by a firearm in incidents ranging “from mass shootings to suicides to domestic and gang violence.”

“But we have the power to stop this cycle,” Moreno continued. “Empowering Coloradans to implement local gun safety measures is a critical step towards creating safer communities. Every local body should be able to decide what policies work for them and have the ability to respond to constituents demanding change.”

Other gun control proposals Democrats introduced after the Boulder shooting include a bill to strengthen background checks and another that would establish a state office focused on gun violence prevention and intervention. After briefly raising the idea, lawmakers including Fenberg said they would not pursue a statewide assault weapons ban.

Lawmaker calls for action after Colorado Springs massacre

Early on May 9, another suspect used a Smith & Wesson M&P 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol to kill six people at a Colorado Springs birthday party before taking his own life, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department. Suspect Teodoro Macias, 28, did not purchase the firearm himself, police said.

Police said Macias had been dating one of the victims, Sandra Ibarra-Perez, for about a year.

Sandra Ibarra-Perez
Sandra Ibarra-Perez, 28, was killed in a mass shooting in Colorado Springs on May 9, 2021. (Courtesy of Colorado Springs Police Department)

“The suspect was not invited to the family gathering and evidence supports that not receiving an invitation upset him,” according to a May 11 statement from CSPD. “The suspect had a history of controlling and jealous behavior toward the victim. This behavior in particular was most obvious with trying to isolate her from her family, and making efforts to prevent her from attending family events.”

Police said the firearm was purchased in 2014 and that as of May 11 they were working to “locate and interview the individual who purchased the firearm originally.”

Victims of the May 9 shooting at Canterbury Mobile Home Park in Colorado Springs include:

• Sandra Ibarra-Perez, 28
• Jose Ibarra, 26
• Mayra Ibarra De Perez, 33
• Melvin Perez, 30
• Jose Gutierrez, 21
• Joana Cruz, 52

Colorado Springs police said the shooting occurred at a birthday party, and that children ages 2, 5 and 11 were among the family members and friends gathered to celebrate. No children were killed or physically injured.

State Rep. Matt Gray, a Broomfield Democrat, said after the shooting that he couldn’t stop thinking of the children at the party, who police said had been placed under the care of relatives.

“Once you’ve lived through the murder of your parents, there’s not really a way to recover from that,” Gray said on the House floor May 10. Gray asked colleagues to “do something about making lives better for those children as they move forward, and making sure that other children don’t suffer the same fate that they did,” tempering his words after House Speaker Alec Garnett, a Denver Democrat, asked him not to discuss policy during announcements that day.

Along with Rep. Monica Duran, a Wheat Ridge Democrat, Gray is championing a bill that would expand and clarify requirements that already exist in state law around relinquishing guns. After a judge issues a protection order against someone suspected of domestic abuse, the bill — House Bill 21-1255 — would require them to file a court affidavit stating the number, type and location of firearms in their control.

CSPD found no reports of prior domestic violence concerning Macias and Ibarra-Perez. If such a report had been made, Macias could perhaps have been forced to surrender any guns he owned under Colorado law and HB-1255. As of May 11, police said they had not learned of any unreported physical altercations between the suspect and victim.

HB-1255 passed in the Colorado House on May 17 by a vote of 39-23, with three lawmakers excused. All Republicans present were opposed, and all Democrats in favor. The bill heads to the Senate next.

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Reporter Faith Miller covers the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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