Bill Limiting Gun Sales To People Convicted Of Violent Misdemeanors Moves Forward

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Flowers, signs and mementos hang along a fence outside a King Supers grocery store in Boulder on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after 10 people, including a Boulder Police officer, were killed there days earlier.

The first of three bills introduced after the mass shooting at a King Soopers in Boulder cleared its first committee late Wednesday night.

If it becomes law, the bill would prevent people from buying a firearm for five years after being convicted of certain violent misdemeanors, including some crimes of child abuse, sexual assault, cruelty to animals, and violating a protection order.

The man arrested for the shooting in Boulder pled guilty to a violent misdemeanor for punching a high school classmate in 2017. Investigators say he passed a background check in order to buy his gun.

“Persons convicted of violent misdemeanors are more likely to be arrested for violent crimes in the future. Communities should not be forced to tolerate risks like this, as the people of Boulder now know too well,” said Peter Fog with Colorado Faith Communities United To End Gun Violence.

Dr. Garen Wintemute, head of California’s Violence Prevention Research Program, told lawmakers that research in his state found people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors and purchase a gun legally are 9 times more likely to be arrested for murder, rape, robbery or aggravated assault when compared to gun buyers without a criminal record.

The bill also closes what gun control advocates describe as the “Charleston loophole” — a federal policy allowing a licensed gun dealer to sell a weapon to someone if their background check isn’t completed within three days. Under the bill, the seller would have to get the results of a Colorado Bureau of Investigation background check before transferring a gun.

The House Judiciary committee heard hours of testimony for and against the bill before voting along party lines to move it forward.

“This is just one more in a long line of legislative malpractice when it comes to the issue of gun violence,” bill opponent Michael Stapleton told the committee. “We have an epidemic of evil in this country, and there is no law, there is no piece legislation, there is nothing that can be done to stop this.” 

Leslie Hollywood, head of gun rights advocacy group Rally for Our Rights, said she is heartbroken over the mass shooting in Boulder. But she argues that the bill is not the right response.

“The more we see ineffective gun control being passed that clearly does not understand current gun law or guns, the more we know this will continue,” said Hollywood. 

Colorado Democrats have already passed two gun bills this session — one mandating the safe storage of firearms and the other requiring gun owners to report to police when a weapon is lost or stolen. Two others, which would allow local governments to set stricter laws than the state and establish an Office of Gun Violence Prevention, are still waiting for their first hearings.