Colorado bill to ban unserialized ghost guns to be introduced

Colorado Democrats hope to ban unserialized firearms — so-called “ghost guns” — with a bill being introduced this week.

The bill would be a final piece in a package of new regulations endorsed by Democratic leadership and the governor that has otherwise mostly made their way through the legislature. That package includes proposals to lift the age limit on buying firearms, create a waiting period to buy firearms, add who can invoke the state’s extreme risk protection order law, and remove liability protections for firearm manufacturers.

“All of it is designed to regulate and to address gun violence,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat and sponsor of the unserialized gun bill.

Under the ghost gun proposal, it would be a misdemeanor to possess or manufacture firearms that lack serial numbers. A second offense would be a felony. The introduced bill would give owners of firearms that lack serial numbers until Jan. 1 to get them registered. It would include exemptions for permanently inoperable and antique firearms.

The drafted bill would also prohibit using 3D printers to manufacture firearms or their frames or receivers without a license.

“We believe this is going to have a significant impact on improving public safety and reducing access to guns for minors in particular,” State Sen. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat, said.

His district includes East High School, where a student recently shot two administrators before taking his own life.

Ghost guns allow owners to sidestep background checks, Fields and Hansen said. Fields said she hoped the bill would “interrupt the level of gun violence that we’re seeing in our state.”

Hansen noted a recent report by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that found a 1,000% increase in suspected privately made firearms recovered by law enforcement agencies in 2021 compared to 2017.

If the bill becomes law, it likely wouldn’t stop ghost guns outright, Hansen acknowledged. He hoped it would dissuade major mail carriers from delivering illegal products, however.

New ghost gun rules received a specific endorsement from Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, following the massacre at the Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs in November. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, along with Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, penned an op-ed in January also calling to close the loophole.

A spokesperson for Suthers, a Republican, said he remains supportive of the concept and is watching the language of the proposed bill.

A proposal to define and ban assault weapons in Colorado is also still in limbo in the legislature. It was most recently scheduled for a hearing on April 19 — just more than two weeks before the end of the legislative session. It has been received more tepidly by Democratic leadership, who have instead highlighted the other package of regulations.

The proposed gun reforms have also been subject to fierce and lengthy debates in the legislature, often set against the backdrop of school shootings and students filling the Capitol to demand a response to the threats.

Opponents of the measures have argued they infringe upon the Second Amendment and people’s ability to protect themselves. Multiple gun rights groups have pledged lawsuits in response to the proposals.

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