Gun violence prevention resolution to be voted on by Boulder City Council

Some of City Council's youngest members share how their perspective impacts their position

Boulder Mayor Pro Tem Junie Joseph stands for a portrait outside the makeshift memorial for shooting victims at King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive in Boulder on Monday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Boulder Mayor Pro Tem Junie Joseph stands for a portrait outside the makeshift memorial for shooting victims at King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive in Boulder on Monday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Boulder City Council member Adam Swetlik has learned to find the nearest exits when he’s inside a building and to scan crowds at large gatherings.

According to Swetlik, 33, that’s all part of being a young person in America, where one grows up with active shooter drills and news of mass shootings.

Swetlik, the youngest City Council member, shared this perspective in a special meeting on March 24, two days after a gunman killed 10 people in the King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive. On Sunday, he told a similar story during a gun safety rally at the Boulder Bandshell.

In response to the King Soopers shooting, Swetlik and his fellow City Council members on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that calls on Boulder’s state and federal representatives to pass legislation that could prevent mass shootings. Namely, that means advocating for an assault weapons ban.

For Swetlik, mass shootings have been a part of almost every juncture of his life. When he was in middle school, several years after the Columbine High School shooting, the lockdown drills began. Years later, during his freshman year at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Virginia Tech campus shooting happened.

“Well, I guess this happens in college, too,” Swetlik recounts thinking at the time.

After graduation, his friend was injured in the Aurora movie theater shooting.

And now, it happened in his town, during a time in which Swetlik serves on the City Council. Young policymakers such as Swetlik have been shaped by the era in which they grew up. Now, they have a chance to do something about it.

In addition to supporting all legislation that could prevent mass shootings, the resolution that Boulder City Council will discuss Tuesday also outlines a number of other pieces of regulation the city would support, including:

  • Regulation of short-barreled firearms equipped with pistol braces;
  • A waiting period of at least six days for firearm purchases;
  • The addition of a 10-year firearm prohibition for individuals with conviction of, or outstanding warrants for, violent misdemeanors or crimes that are linked to an increased risk of gun violence;
  • A repeal of the state preemption on local regulation of firearms;
  • Universal background checks on all sales of firearms;
  • Requirements for a firearm owner to keep his or her firearm in a locked container or secured with a locking device;
  • A requirement for firearm owners to report an unaccounted-for-firearm; and
  • An increase in the minimum age to purchase and possess firearms.

Chief Policy Advisor Carl Castillo said in a prior interview with the Camera that the Council also will decide whether it supports the city in an appeal of the district court’s March 12 ruling on Boulder’s assault weapons ban in which Judge Andrew Hartman determined that state statute preempts local governments from restricting gun sales and possession.

In Mayor Pro Tem Junie Joseph’s mind, it’s going to take leadership from the state and federal legislature to make real progress. While Boulder has a platform, given what happened on March 22, Joseph said change cannot fall on the city alone.

“I welcome the opportunity to show the world that, as a community, we care about this. We are going to strive to put this ban back on the books,” Joseph said. “The rest of the country needs to do its work. We can’t do it alone.”

Had it remained enforceable, Boulder’s assault weapons ban, for example, likely wouldn’t have prevented the King Soopers shooting because the gunman lived elsewhere and purchased the gun in another jurisdiction.

For this reason, Joseph is hoping for uniform gun laws. The resolution the Council will vote on is a good start, she said.

“It shows as a community what our values are,” Joseph said. “(But) our values have to also meet our actions.”

At 35, she is another one of the youngest Boulder City Council members, but her path to leadership has been a bit different. Joseph was born in Haiti and moved to the United States as a teenager. She’s traveled all over the world for school and to do human rights work. The King Soopers shooting took her back to her time working in countries facing human rights crises.

From Swetlik’s perspective, change might require new leaders cycling into positions of power.

“This generation is going to be more bold in making the structural changes to our government that are required to actually make it more equitable,” Swetlik said. “Until the incentives change to where it is more important to make good policy than to get reelected, you’re going to keep getting bad policy.”

If you watch

What: Boulder City Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Council and city staff members will participate from remote locations. Residents can watch the meeting on Boulder’s YouTube channel or on Channel 8.