State laws to limit gun violence proceed despite GOP opposition


On February 23, Democrats in the state Senate introduced three bills they believe will help address the problem of gun violence in our state.

SB23-169 Increasing Minimum Age to Purchase Firearms, changes the minimum age to legally purchase any firearm to 21. Approved amendments to the bill have added exceptions to the minimum age of 21 for licensed hunting, sanctioned shooting training, active-duty military members, peace officers, and persons who are over 18 when the law passes, for firearms they would have been able to legally purchase under the prior law. 

SB23-168 Gun Violence Victims’ Access to Judicial System repeals the current law that “limits product liability actions against manufacturers of firearms and ammunition to situations in which there was a defect in the design or manufacture of a firearm or ammunition.” It states that liability does not arise, “based upon the inherent potential of a firearm to cause injury, damage, or death when discharged.” Under the new law, liability can arise from a failure to exercise reasonable controls and precautions to prevent reasonably anticipated unlawful acts, such as sales to minors and conversion of the legal firearm into an illegal one.

SB23-170 Extreme Risk Protection Order Petitions (ERPO) “expands the list of who can petition for an extreme risk protection order to include licensed medical care providers, licensed mental health-care providers, licensed educators, and district attorneys.” Amendments have been approved to protect the privacy of medical records of respondents and to clarify the definition of the additional parties who have been added.

SB23-168 was passed in the state Senate on final reading on March 13 with all Democrats voting yes except Sens. Dylan Roberts and Kevin Priola and all Republicans voting no. 

SB23-170 was passed in the state Senate on final reading on March 13 with all Democrats voting yes except Sen. Kevin Priola and all Republicans voting no. 

Following the Senate vote, both bills moved to the state House for consideration. 

SB23-168 was discussed and debated in the state House for a reported almost nine hours on Friday, March 24, before the meeting was adjourned at 11:30 p.m. SB23-170 was discussed and debated in the state House for approximately the same amount of time the next day, Saturday, March 25, before House Speaker Julie McCluskie (D) invoked a parliamentary procedure to limit further debate on both bills to one more hour each. That motion passed 39-19.

The limited-time remaining debate on both bills occurred on Sunday, March 26 before the vote was called shortly after 2:00 p.m. for both bills.  

The vote on SB23-170 to expand the list of those who can request an ERPO, was 44-19, with all House members present voting along party lines. 

The vote on SB23-168 to expand the responsibilities of those who manufacture and sell firearm products, was 43-19, with all those present voting along party lines. 

During the debate on SB23-169, nearly every member of the GOP who spoke thanked the Democratic sponsors for working with them to amend the bill from its original form, before explaining that they would not support the bill because those who are 18 are allowed to join the military, vote, etc., so they are responsible enough to purchase a firearm. It was late in the afternoon of March 27 when the bill passed on third and final reading 40-24 with all Republicans voting no. Also voting no were Democratic Reps. Sheila Lieder, Bob Marshall, Matthew Martinez, Tisha Mauro, Jennifer Parenti, and Said Sharbini.

Explaining why they acted to cut off the debate on SB-168 and SB-170 after so many hours of debate that appeared to change no one’s position, House Speaker Julie McCluskie and House Majority Leader Monica Duran issued a statement that said, in part, “An overwhelming majority of Colorado voters elected us to govern responsibly because we made clear commitments to prevent gun violence…and we must deliver.”

On March 23, in advance of McCluskie’s action, State GOP Chair Dave Williams issued a statement that began with, “Radical Democrats, led by marxist gun-grabbers…are threatening to cut off debate and censor CO House Republicans during the Democrats’ anti-gun debate tomorrow.” 

On March 25, after the action to limit additional debate passed, Williams sent out another statement addressing the action, with the subject line, “They hate you.” It referred to House Democratic leaders as “vile tyrants” who want to “rob you of your God-given right to self-defense from heinous criminals,” and “want your elected representatives to shut up about it when they speak out.”

During the debate on SB23-168, Arapahoe County GOP Rep. Rod Bockenfeld said, “It’s amusing to me, the march that we had on the Capitol the other day (after two recent shootings at East High School) where we had all these young people who want to blame the gun…If we want to start blaming other than the human beings that are committing these violations of life or of law, I think we should run a bill and take cell phones away from children…Let’s take away TikTok…Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube…That’s what’s poisoning the minds of our children. It’s not the gun. It’s the cell phone.”