Gov. Polis signs historic new gun regulations into law
Gov. Jared Polis signed four gun control bills into law Friday in an effort to curb rising gun violence in Colorado. The move is likely to be the most significant firearm reform in Colorado history.
Two of the new laws deal with firearm purchases. They impose a mandatory three-day waiting period on firearm purchases and raise the minimum age to buy and own a gun to 21 years old. The minimum age reform includes exceptions for active duty military, law enforcement, hunters and sports shooters, who may possess firearms at 18 years old.
Another newly-approved regulation expands the state’s red flag law, also called the Extreme Risk Protection Order law or ERPO law, to allow teachers, doctors, and mental health professionals to petition the courts to remove someone's guns if they pose a threat to themself or others. The final measure will make it easier for gun-violence victims to sue firearm manufacturers and gun dealers.
“Coloradans deserve to be safe in our communities, in our schools and our grocery stores, nightclubs, everywhere in between,” Gov. Polis said at Friday’s bill signing ceremony. “Coloradans shouldn't have to fear the threat of robbery or gun violence.”
Polis' office was packed with lawmakers, advocates, activists and other supporters of the new laws, many of whom helped craft the legislation, for the signing ceremony. Polis acknowledged the long and often challenging journey the bills took to get to his desk.
“We lead with data. We lead with common sense that delivers meaningful results to the people we serve,” Polis said. “These bills are a reflection of that work, and they will make Colorado safer.”
The witnesses at the signing ceremony included Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Redfield Ghawi was killed during the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting. The law that expands gun violence victims’ ability to sue the gun industry is named after Ghawi.
“Colorado has had more than our fair share of grief, sadness and loss, but this day is the day to be grateful. This day is the day to be hopeful. This day is the day that we are all waiting for,” Sen. Sonia Jaquez-Lewis, the bill’s sponsor, said. “We are protecting our communities where we live and work with common sense gun violence prevention legislation that will give us all hope.”
Colorado Democrats broadly support the new laws while Republican lawmakers oppose them.
“Today, Colorado is less free and our citizens less safe and able to protect themselves,” Republican House Minority Leader Mike Lynch said in a statement on Friday. “We know the vast majority of Colorado gun owners go above and beyond to follow the law, but as usual, Democrats want to punish the majority for the criminal or tragic actions of the few.”
Within hours of the bill signing, the Colorado gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners filed lawsuits in federal court against two of the new laws, claiming they violate Coloradans’ constitutional right to bear arms.
“We're talking about constitutional freedoms here,” The group’s Executive Director Taylor Rhodes told KUNC after the bills were signed. “We're talking about things that are guaranteed by God and then enshrined by our government.”
The new laws come in the wake of several high-profile gun violence incidents in Colorado including the Club Q mass shooting in November in Colorado Springs and a shooting at Denver’s East High School in March.
Across the country, more people died from gun violence in 2021 than in any other year on record. Between 2019 and 2021, gun deaths among children rose by 50%. Guns are now the leading cause of death for kids and teens in the US, according to the latest data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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