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Colorado House votes to ban manufacture, sale of semiautomatic assault weapons

April 15, 2024, 9:29 am
Students and teachers gather outside the state capitol to protest against gun violence in the wake of shootings at Denver’s East High School on March 24, 2023 (Kevin Mohatt for Colorado Newsline).

The Colorado House of Representatives on Sunday passed a prohibition on the sale, manufacture and transfer of so-called “assault weapons” for the first time in state history, sending the measure over to a less certain future in the Senate.

The chamber passed House Bill 24-1292 on a 35-27 vote, with three members excused. Every Republican present voted against it, joined by nine Democrats. Most of those Democrats represent rural or swing districts.

The nine Democrats were Rep. Shannon Bird of Westminster, Sheila Leider of Littleton, Meghan Lukens of Steamboat Springs, Bob Marshall of Highlands Ranch, Matthew Martinez of Alamosa, Tisha Mauro of Pueblo, Barbara McLachlan of Durango, Marc Snyder of Manitou Springs and Mary Young of Greeley.

The passage is a watershed moment, as a similar bill last year did not even make it through committee.

The bill would add a definition of “assault weapon” into state law and ban many models of semi-automatic rifles and pistols, as well as rapid-fire trigger activators. It would not ban possession, and it would include exceptions for military and law enforcement. A firearm owner would be able to will their children these types of weapons.

The bill was amended in its House committee to remove hefty civil penalty fines, but a floor amendment added back in a $750 civil fine.

Ahead of the vote, bill sponsor Rep. Tim Hernández, a Denver Democrat, spent time summarizing the final moments of four victims of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, where gunmen murdered 12 students and one teacher. Since then, there have been mass shootings in the state at a movie theater in Aurora, a grocery store in Boulder, another high school in Highlands Ranch and a nightclub in Colorado Springs. Assault weapons are disproportionately used in mass shootings, according to the bill.

“In 25 years since the worst shooting ever to occur at a school in Colorado history — where you felt sick to your stomach — we still allow the weapons used to massacre children in a library to be sold. We still allow our cultural infatuation with guns to permeate our lives,” he said. Hernández ran the bill with Rep. Elisabeth Epps, a Denver Democrat.

“I ask us to commit, colleagues, to never forget as begged by community members, family members and children themselves over 25 years and every year since,” he said. “I ask you to never forget about Kyle (Velasquez), about Isaiah (Shoels), about Cassie (Bernall), and about a teacher named Dave,” he said.

House leadership limited debate to five hours during Friday’s main debate on the bill, though lawmakers went on to speak for multiple hours on Sunday to reiterate their reasons for support or opposition.

Republicans view the bill as an attack on Second Amendment rights and a limitation on their ability to defend themselves and their families. They also argued that the weapons described in the bill include guns Coloradans regularly use for sport and hunting, a huge recreational and economic driver in the state.

They contended that criminals will still find ways to access assault weapons, and that mental health issues are the root cause of gun violence.

“No matter what you outlaw, no matter what we take away from citizens, criminals — people that hate — will always find a way to do their evil deeds,” said Rep. Anthony Hartsook, a Parker Republican.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is sponsored by Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat. The legislative session ends on May 8.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

One Response to Colorado House votes to ban manufacture, sale of semiautomatic assault weapons

  1. Michael Reply

    April 15, 2024 at 9:55 am

    Blah blah blah, same old mental health excuse for gun violence but no known way to predict in order to intervene. So having hid behind this diversion let’s all continue to supply tools of mass murder to ANYONE who wants one. Hypocrite gun advocates need to be retired, having proven once again that campaign donations and threats from gun radicals rule the party.

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