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Boulder moves toward vote on gun legislation

Boulder City Council provides direction ahead of hearing scheduled in June

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Boulder is moving toward a vote on a suite of gun legislation, including a reinstatement of its assault weapons ban.

Boulder City Council in a special meeting Tuesday provided some direction about the language and intent of the various measures. The legislation will not be official until a June 7 public hearing, in which the community can provide testimony and the Council must vote.

The primary ordinance that’s been proposed would, among other things, limit magazines to ten rounds or fewer, ban bump stocks and other rapid-fire trigger activators and raise the age of firearms possession to 21.

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

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

However, Boulder District Judge Andrew Hartman in March 2021 ruled 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 King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive. At least partially in response to the shooting, the state legislature repealed the preemption statute.

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

“What we’re attempting to do here is reinstate the ordinance that was previously preempted and then also to add on some new gun violence protection,” Senior Assistant City Attorney Luis Toro said Tuesday.

One of the main questions the City Council tackled in its meeting involved whether it would allow legacy weapons, or those acquired before the effective date of the assault weapons ban, assuming it’s approved. The Council did so when it first instituted the ban in 2018.

While several City Council members preferred not to, the Council ultimately agreed that people who have acquired assault weapons before July 1 — the proposed effective date — would be allowed to obtain certificates from the Boulder Police Department that would permit them to retain the weapons legally.

“I just think it’s a little problematic that we are creating an allowance for people that knowingly brought a gun illegally into the city in hopes of a court reprieve,” Councilmember Matt Benjamin said.

However, the Council agreed that doing so would provide more clarity.

The City Council also agreed the legislation should prohibit guns in places that serve alcohol.

“To me, guns and alcohol simply do not mix and the presence of weapons in a place serving alcohol just increases, to me, the danger exponentially,” Councilmember Mark Wallach said.

Furthermore, the Council agreed that there should be no exceptions to the open carry laws for modes of transportation other than private vehicles and that stores should display signage that share some of the potential dangers of gun ownership in both English and Spanish.

Because the Council’s guidance on Tuesday required tweaking the language of the legislation, the ordinances will be considered for a first reading on May 24 ahead of the June public hearing.

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