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Colorado House passes bill to ban sale, purchase of “assault weapons,” sending measure to Senate

Seth Klamann, The Denver Post on

Published in News & Features

For the first time in Colorado history, House Democrats passed a bill Sunday to ban the sale, purchase and transfer of so-called “assault weapons” in the state, setting the measure on a collision course with the state Senate.

House Bill 1292 passed on a 35-27 vote, two votes past the threshold needed to pass. All of the supporters were Democrats, though nine Democrats joined with House Republicans in opposition.

Under the measure, which received initial House approval Friday, “assault weapons” are defined as certain high-powered, semi-automatic rifles and pistols that have fixed, large-capacity magazines or have the ability to accept detachable magazines, along with various other characteristics and types of high-powered firearms.

The bill does not ban the possession of the weapons. Under a change made Friday, an individual who illegally sells one of the covered firearms would face a $750 penalty. Gun shops that broke the law would risk losing the state licenses that lawmakers are trying to implement under a separate bill being considered this session, House Bill 1353. A third bill sets aside money to improve state investigations of illegal sales and other gun crimes.

The measure, backed by Denver Democratic Reps. Tim Hernández and Elisabeth Epps, now heads to the state Senate, where it faces an uncertain path forward amid opposition from some Democrats and skepticism from Gov. Jared Polis. But a year after a similar bill died at the first hurdle, even clearing the House is a landmark moment for a policy that some Colorado Democrats have long viewed as a time-consuming distraction from other, more meaningful reform.

Its passage is also a further sign of Colorado Democrats’ broader embrace of gun reform, 11 years after a high-capacity magazine ban triggered electoral recalls and left lasting scars on Democratic policymakers.


House Democrats pitched the ban as a preventative response to the mass shootings that have become a routine and grim feature of American life, marring Colorado’s schools, grocery stores, movie theaters, nightclubs and public spaces. Several legislators represent areas that have become infamous for their own massacre over the past decade. Rep. Jennifer Bacon, a Denver Democrat, said she had students in the Aurora movie theater during the 2012 shooting. One of them was shot.

She rejected Republican arguments that more guns lead to crime prevention.

“The answer can’t be, ‘I need to pack my gun so when someone shoots me at church, I can shoot them back,’ ” Bacon said. “The answer can’t be, ‘When I go to the grocery store, I need to have my gun, so I can shoot them.’ That is not prevention. That is reaction.”

House Republicans uniformly opposed the bill. Democratic leadership limited floor debate to five hours Friday in a bid to curtail Republican filibustering. Some Republican lawmakers wore rifle pins on their lapels, and two pledged that they or their constituents would not comply with the ban should it become law. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, the pro-gun rights group, has already pledged to file a lawsuit if the bill passes.


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