Update on new laws aiming to reduce gun violence in Colorado


Governor Polis said he wanted Colorado to be one of the 10 safest states in the country within five years. In January, he pointed to two specific new laws he hoped would help accomplish that goal, expanding the list of people who could invoke the state’s extreme risk protection order (red flag) law and banning ghost guns.

Four bills intended to address gun violence introduced in the general assembly on February 23 have passed and are expected to land on the governor’s desk for signature soon, possibly as early as April 28. GOP opposition to all gun legislation to date has been consistent, with none of these four bills or any others so far having received even one Republican vote.

SB23-170 Extreme Risk Protection Order Petitions expands the list of those who can invoke the red flag law to include licensed medical care providers, licensed mental health-care providers, licensed educators, and district attorneys.

Colorado’s red flag law was first passed in 2019. SB23-170 was passed in both chambers of the state legislature on straight party line votes and is listed as, “Signed by the Speaker of the House” and “Signed by the President of the Senate” on April 19, now awaiting transfer to Governor Polis for signature.

SB23-169 Increasing Minimum Age to Purchase Firearms makes it unlawful for a person under the age of 21 to purchase a firearm with limited exceptions, including if the person who is over 18 but under 21 is on active duty in the military or a sworn peace officer. The bill passed the Senate 20-14. Along with all Republicans in the legislature, Democratic Senators Nick Hinrichsen, Kevin Priola, and Dylan Roberts voted no. The vote in the House was 40-24. Democratic Representatives Sheila Lieder, Bob Marshall, Matthew Martinez, Tisha Mauro, Jennifer Parenti, and Said Sharbini voted no. This bill is also awaiting transfer to Gov. Polis for signature.

SB23-168 Gun Violence Victims’ Access to Judicial System confers product liability on manufacturers and sellers of firearms by allowing Coloradans who have been harmed “by unlawful and irresponsible conduct” by the firearms industry to pursue civil actions, seeking appropriate justice and fair remedies for those harms in court. It passed the Senate 21-14. Along with all Republicans in the legislature, Democratic Senators Kevin Priola and Dylan Roberts voted no. It passed the House 39-22. Democratic Representatives Matthew Martinez, Barbara McLachlan, and David Ortiz voted no. This bill is also ready to be sent to the governor for signature.

HB23-1219 Waiting Period to Deliver a Firearm establishes a minimum three-day waiting period prior to the delivery of a purchased firearm.
According to the bill, “From 2014 to 2019, the number of firearm-related deaths in Colorado was greater than the number of deaths due to motor vehicle crashes, opioid overdoses, HIV, and colon cancer. Among firearm-related deaths, more than 75 percent were caused by intentional self-harm or suicide and more than 20 percent were as a result of assaults or homicides….In 2021, Colorado had its highest number of homicides by discharge of a firearm since 2000. There were 274 homicides by firearm in Colorado in 2021, and the age group with the highest rate of firearm homicide victims was people ages 15 to 24, with 74 deaths….In 2020, Colorado had the seventh highest suicide rate in the United States; in 2021, there were 740 suicides by firearm in Colorado, which was more than half of all suicides in the state.”

It also states, “One study estimates that mandatory waiting periods to receive firearms led to a 7 to 11 percent reduction in suicides by firearm; the study also suggests that delaying the purchase of firearms by a few days reduces firearm homicides by approximately 17 percent.”
This bill passed the Senate 21-14 with all Republicans in both chambers and Democratic Senators Nick Hinrichsen and Kevin Priola voting no. It passed the House 41-20 with Democratic Representatives Bob Marshall and Said Sharbini voting no.

HB23-1230 Prohibit Assault Weapons in Colorado was introduced on March 3 and died in its first hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on April 19. It was widely reported that Gov. Polis did not support this bill. The bill was killed on an 8-5 vote with all four Republicans and five Democrats, Representatives Lindsey Daugherty, Bob Marshall, Said Sharbini, and Marc Snyder voting no after many hours of testimony, mostly from opponents of prohibiting assault weapons.

SB23-279 Unserialized Firearms and Firearm Components to prohibit the manufacture and possession of ghost guns was introduced on April 12 and passed by the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs 3-2 on April 20 on a party line vote. It is awaiting a full hearing in the Senate. If it is passed there, it will move on to the state House.

In a recent press conference, Sen. Chris Hansen, who, along with Sen. Rhonda Fields, are the bill’s Senate prime sponsors, explained, “We have seen a dramatic rise in the prevalence of ghost guns,” which were used in both the Club Q and the East High School shootings. He continued, “This bill will make it illegal to possess or manufacture un-serialized guns. We believe this will have a significant impact on public safety in Colorado.” Ghost guns, Hansen pointed out, avoid background checks and waiting periods.

Sen. Fields shared that there has been extensive stakeholder input to this bill from elected officials, including the mayors of Denver, Aurora, and Colorado Springs, and district attorneys from the left and the right, plus those have not been supportive of gun legislation. She added, “According to my district attorney in Aurora, these are showing up more and more at crime scenes.”

The 2023 session of the Colorado State Legislative ends May 8.