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


    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.