Boulder City Council unanimously supports gun violence prevention legislation

A little more than a year after 10 people were killed in a mass shooting at the King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive, the Boulder City Council unanimously approved six gun violence prevention ordinances, including an assault weapons ban.

The legislation repeals Boulder’s older ordinances governing assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, instead replacing them with new regulations that will do much of the same.

In addition to barring the sale and possession of assault weapons, the ordinance approved Tuesday limits magazines to 10 rounds or fewer, bans bump stocks and other rapid-fire trigger activators and raises the age of firearms possession to 21.

Other ordinances include one that prohibits carrying firearms in city properties, at demonstrations or near polling locations; another that bans ghost guns, or those that lack serial numbers, and another that requires signage warning of the dangers of gun ownership at gun shops as well as a 10-day waiting period before delivery of a firearm.

When people question what kind of local impact the measures will have, Rep. Judy Amabile thinks about the difference a 10-day waiting period could have made in her own life.

A waiting period would have made a difference for her son, who attempted to purchase a gun to take his own life during a mental health episode.

He failed a background check on a technicality, but had that not happened, Amabile said gun stores told her they technically had no legal authority to prohibit the sale.

“Even if we saved one kid, and that kid was your kid, or my kid, then I think it would be worth it. And I don’t think there’s a parent out there who wouldn’t agree with that,” Amabile said. “I really applaud you for taking these steps, and they will save lives.

“It’s not everything we need to do, but it is meaningful,” she added.

Boulder originally instituted its assault weapons ban in 2018 in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

However, in March 2021 Boulder District Judge Andrew Hartman deemed the ban invalid, ruling that only state or federal laws can prohibit the possession, sale and transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

Colorado had passed laws “that are effectively a scheme preempting local governments from enacting municipal firearms and magazine possession ordinances,” according to court documents.

Hartman’s ruling came down 10 days before a gunman killed 10 people at the south Boulder King Soopers. At least partially in response to the shooting, the state Legislature repealed the preemption statute.

That decision is what allowed Boulder to proceed with an assault weapons ban that is similar, but not identical, to its original.

South Boulder resident Megan Vos and her children spent nearly every Monday at their neighborhood King Soopers. Because of spring break, they weren’t there March 22, 2021 — the day of the shooting.

But the fact that they weren’t physically there doesn’t diminish the trauma her family experienced. Vos said her daughters continue to have anxiety about their own safety and the community’s safety.

In the aftermath of the shooting, some people felt compelled to act. Vos said she felt powerless and immobile.

“Now, however, as gun violence continues to affect community after community, I feel compelled to speak up,” she said.

“Although there is no single ordinance that can prevent a massacre like the ones in Boulder, Buffalo and Uvalde, the package of actions before you tonight makes substantial progress toward keeping firearms out of the wrong hands,” Vos added.

Of more than 20 speakers — far fewer than the nearly 150 people who spoke in 2018 — the vast majority were in favor of the measures. However, a couple of people spoke in opposition.

Among the opponents was Fred Barton, who argued that many people did not know about the Tuesday night vote. He suggested the City Council instead place a measure on the ballot that would allow Boulder voters a say.

Several councilmembers, as well as some community members who testified, urged action on a state and federal level, particularly calling on the state legislators who attended the meeting.

Other local municipalities are considering or have recently approved similar legislation. The Louisville City Council approved its own measures minutes before Boulder.

While this provides continuity, it still wouldn’t have prevented the King Soopers shooting. The shooter purchased a gun legally elsewhere in Colorado, thus emphasizing the need for state laws, some argued Tuesday.

“I’m frankly frustrated that it is left to cities to enact these laws that the federal government, or at least state governments, could and should be doing,” Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend said. “Boulder alone cannot create all the protections needed to keep our community members safe from all forms of gun violence, but voting on these ordinances tonight is what we can do for our community.”

It’s been a long journey to the Boulder City Council’s vote on Tuesday, and Friend has been there since the beginning. She advocated for gun violence prevention measures as a volunteer with Moms Demand Action before being elected to the City Council.

Several of her City Council colleagues recognized that work and said it will serve as a legacy of her time on the Council.

Mayor Aaron Brockett recalled that he first spoke to Friend when he was a councilmember and she was an advocate who called him to urge action.

“I have a tear in my eye,” he said following Tuesday’s unanimous vote in support. “This is an important moment. It takes courage to pass measures like this.”

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