Opponents of Boulder County’s new gun laws are threatening to sue

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Signs calling for an assault weapon ban join the makeshift memorial outside the Table Mesa King Soopers in Boulder, March 24, 2021.

Boulder County has joined other Colorado municipalities and passed legislation intended to curb gun violence.

“Our hope is that other counties as well will look at these ordinances and hopefully use them as templates that fit for their community,” District 2 County Commissioner Marta Loachim said.

Boulder County Commissioners unanimously approved five ordinances related to gun violence prevention at its public hearing Tuesday night. Under the new rules, people under 21 will no longer be able to purchase or sell a firearm in the county nor can people bring firearms to places like playgrounds, government buildings or healthcare facilities. 

The following ordinances apply to unincorporated areas within Boulder County and go into effect immediately:

  • Prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing and selling a firearm.
  • Establish a 10-day waiting period for delivering firearms from a licensed firearms dealer. The Colorado Bureau of Investigations must approve the firearms transfer.
  • Firearms are prohibited in sensitive public places such as public areas, government buildings, playgrounds, parks, areas within 400 feet of polling stations or ballot boxes, healthcare facilities, places of worship and daycares.
  • Prohibit the sale and purchase of assault weapons, large capacity magazines, and trigger activators.
  • Prohibits the possession of unfinished frames and receivers, and unserialized firearms, commonly known as “ghost guns.”

The passage of Colorado Senate Bill 21-256 in 2021 opened the door for local and county governments to pass gun ordinances. Earlier that year, a gunman opened fire on a King Soopers on Table Mesa in south Boulder. 10 people including a police officer died. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Senate President Stephen Fenberg, who also represents Boulder County. 

The Commissioners' vote follows a month-long comment period where the County received almost 200 responses. In the initial tally prior to the hearing, 101 of them supported the ordinances and 62 were opposed.

Mary Liz Calloway supported the ordinances. She attended Tuesday’s meeting and said she has lived in unincorporated Boulder County for 22 years. Her daughters’ boyfriend was in the parking lot on the day of the King Soopers shooting. Calloway told Commissioners that she and her neighbors do not enjoy special protections from gun violence.

“We have to face the fact that our beloved Boulder County has attracted individuals with plans for a mass shooting twice in the past 16 months, the county needs to respond just as nearby cities have done,” Calloway said. “The five firearm ordinances you're evaluating are a smart, legal, measured response. Today's realities. I believe that they are consistent with the second amendment and will be proven.” 

Martin Kehoe, also attended the meeting but opposed the stricter gun laws. He said he believes the Second Amendment is a god-given right.

“All my weapons identify as defensive weapons, but I'm sure they'll still try to take them,” Kehoe said. “The bottom line is if you vote for this, Boulder County Commissioners have shown contempt to their electors in the Constitution.”

In June, Boulder, Lafayette, Louisville, and Superior unanimously passed similar ordinances in response to mass shootings in New York and Texas. But, those ordinances haven’t come without opposition. Last month, a federal judge granted the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Association a temporary restraining order against ordinances passed in Superior

Kevin Lorusso said he represented the gun group at the meeting. He warned that Rocky Mountain Gun Owners has no problems taking legal action against Boulder County.

“If you pass these ordinances, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners will add you to the list of places we are suing over this. It has already been established that we will win,” Lorusso said, referring to the restraining order.

A hearing on that order is scheduled for Thursday morning in Denver. The group has also filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jared Polis and the state to overturn the 2013 Standard Capacity Magazine Ban.

Boulder County Commissioners said they plan to continue to promote education around gun safety.