Gun control bill, aimed at strengthening background checks, wins House committee’s approval

By: - May 7, 2021 2:22 pm

Community members gather for a vigil at Fairview High School in Boulder honoring 10 people who were killed during a mass shooting in Boulder on March 22, 2021. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

A controversial gun control bill, which sponsors introduced in response to the March mass shooting at a Boulder King Soopers, passed its first hurdle May 5 at the Colorado Capitol.

Rep. Judy Amabile — the Boulder Democrat whose district includes the King Soopers where 10 people were massacred March 22 — is sponsoring House Bill 21-1298 with Rep. Steven Woodrow, a Denver Democrat.

The legislation aims to close the so-called Charleston loophole in Colorado.

Under federal law, gun retailers must allow three days for the FBI to process someone’s background check before they can buy a gun. But if the check isn’t completed by then, the retailer is allowed to let them purchase the firearm. Gun-control advocates call this the Charleston loophole, because they say it’s how the perpetrator of a mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, was able to obtain the gun he used to kill nine people.

Amabile’s bill would require a firearms dealer to obtain approval from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation before allowing someone to purchase a gun, and would prevent the bureau from approving any gun sales without a completed background check.

People with felony convictions are already barred from buying firearms, but HB-1298 would also prohibit people from purchasing a gun less than five years after being convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes. Those crimes include:

• third-degree assault
• menacing
• sexual assault
• unlawful sexual contact
• child abuse
• violation of a protection order
• crime against an at-risk person
• harassment
• bias-motivated crime
• cruelty to animals
• possession of an illegal weapon
• unlawfully providing a firearm other than a handgun to a juvenile

On May 5, the House Judiciary Committee passed the bill by a vote of 7-4, along party lines. It’s scheduled for a preliminary vote of the full House on May 10.

“When my community was devastated by the senseless actions of a troubled individual with a history of violence, I was left reeling and grasping for answers on how to prevent this from happening again,” Amabile said in a statement after the Judiciary Committee’s vote. “As the investigation continues, it has become clear to me that the shooter’s conviction of a violent misdemeanor should have been the red flag that prevented him from buying a deadly weapon.”

She referred to Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, the 21-year-old Arvada resident charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and more than 30 counts of attempted murder in the first degree, in connection with the Boulder massacre.

Alissa was previously convicted of misdemeanor assault by a Jefferson County court in 2018, according to records. The Denver Post reported he was charged after attacking a classmate at Arvada West High School and sentenced to probation and community service.

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Faith Miller was a reporter with Colorado Newsline covering the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories.