Colorado legislators wants to reform the state’s gun laws


On February 23, Democratic legislators announced they plan to propose four new statewide gun reform laws. The four bills have 16 different prime sponsors, eight representatives and eight senators, including the president of the state Senate and two members of state House leadership. All are Democrats, whose party includes 46 out of 65 members of the state House and 23 out of 35 members of the state Senate, representing clear majorities. 

HB23-1219 would require a waiting period of at least three days before a person can take possession of a firearm after purchasing it in Colorado, with exceptions for antiques and a member of the U.S. military who is about to be deployed outside the U.S. and is selling the gun to a family member. 

SB23-168 would repeal limitations on the rights of victims of gun violence, as well as the Colorado Attorney General, to sue manufacturers and sellers of firearms and ammunition, if they believe the circumstances warrant holding those parties responsible.

SB23-170 would expand the categories of people who could ask a judge to invoke the red flag law from family members and law enforcement only to district attorneys, medical professionals, including mental health providers, and educators. Some members of law enforcement in Colorado have previously stated publicly that they would not ask a judge to implement the red flag law.

SB23-169 would increase the minimum age for the purchase of all firearms to 21. Currently, some firearms can be purchased by 18-year-olds.

For many Americans, the murder of 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Jefferson County on April 20,1999, signified the beginning of a 24-year ongoing epidemic of mass shootings. The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group that tracks these occurrences, reports that there were 647 mass shootings (the killing of multiple people in one incident) in 2022, including 21 that had five or more fatalities, and 80 mass shootings in the first six weeks of 2023.

In addition to Columbine, the single word that has come to designate that incident, the July 20,2012 Aurora theater shooting that also killed 12 innocent people and injured 70 more, is painfully familiar to Americans in this state and nationwide.

There has long been talk of gun reform in this state, but only limited actions have been taken due to real and perceived Constitutional issues, as well as a considerable number of Colorado residents who sincerely hold the unconditional right to own and bear arms as fundamental to being a citizen of the United States.

There is also a significant gun lobby in Colorado, led by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), a local affiliate of the National Association for Gun Rights, that generally works to prevent gun control legislation. 

The original Extreme Risk Protection Order (red flag law) was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by Governor Polis in 2019. Among its sponsors when it was first proposed in 2018 was then-Assistant Minority Leader State Rep. Cole Wist, a rising leader in state Republican circles. In response to Wist’s support of the red flag law, RMGO worked against his re-election in 2018. Ironically, Wist lost the race and was replaced by now-State Sen. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, and for whom gun reform is the primary, if not sole issue that has led and sustained his political career. Prior to his son’s murder, Sullivan was a postal carrier and not involved in politics.