What Colorado lawmakers did on guns this year

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Democratic House Majority Leader Monica Duran, May 8, 2024, on the closing day of the legislature.

In the future, Colorado’s gun owners will have to pass stricter requirements to hold a concealed carry permit. They will need a locked storage container for any handgun they leave in their car. And they won’t be able to carry their weapon to vote in person.

Those are among a half dozen new gun policies passed by Colorado Democrats in the session that just wrapped up. One is already law and the rest are headed to the governor’s desk.

“I know the bills we passed this year will make a big difference in making our community safer,” said Democratic Majority Leader Monica Duran. 

Duran sponsored the bill to increase the training requirements for concealed carry permit holders, as well one that will ask Colorado voters to impose an excise tax on gun and ammunition purchases, with the money raised going to behavioral health support for veterans and youth and services for victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes.

She and other Democrats point to the large swath of policies they passed this session as a sign that gun bills are no longer something can essentially grind the legislature to a halt, as they did in years past. 

“This year we made it routine,” Duran said, “just as anything else that we run.” 

The other gun bills that passed would:  

Advocates for the policies applauded lawmakers for trying to “create a safer gun culture for the state.” 

“Too many families across Colorado continue to deal with the toll of gun violence. And this session, Colorado lawmakers made it clear they are focused on protecting our communities,” said Kelly Murphy, a volunteer with the Colorado chapter of Moms Demand Action.

However, Second Amendment supporters argue all lawmakers have done is place new burdens on gun owners and dealers, with little to likelihood of improving public safety.

Not all proposals had the votes to pass

Arguably the most sweeping and high-profile of this year’s gun bills, a proposal to ban the sale and transfer of so-called assault weapons failed in the Senate after clearing the Democratic-controlled House. 

When the bill came up for its Senate hearing in the final days of session, its main sponsor, Democratic Sen. Julie Gonzales of Denver, asked the State Veterans and Military Affairs committee to vote it down, rather than spend time on debate.

“After thoughtful conversations with my Senate colleagues, I decided that more conversations need to take place outside of the pressure cooker of the Capitol during the last weeks of the legislative session,” wrote Gonzales in a statement about her decision.

Had the hearing gone forward, it could have put Democratic State Sen. Tom Sullivan in a difficult position. Sullian, whose son was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting, is one of the legislature’s staunchest advocates for stricter gun laws. But on this issue, he was the committee’s swing vote. He has long said that banning sales within Colorado, instead of at the national level, would be ineffective and polarizing. 

“I've had this conversation since the day Alex was murdered,” Sullivan told CPR News in an interview three years ago. At the time, shortly after the Boulder King Soopers shooting, Democratic lawmakers briefly considered introducing an assault weapons ban, but decided against it.

Democrats also failed to pass a bill that would have required gun owners to carry  liability insurance. It too got through the House, but ultimately ran out of time on the Senate floor when it was never brought up for a debate. 

Second Amendment advocates celebrated the defeat of those two bills as rare successes.

“NOTHING we were able to accomplish this session would’ve been possible without the members and supporters of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. You guys are our lifeblood especially when others let us down,” said a social media post from RMGO, which lobbied heavily against the bills.

At the same time that they tightened up the rules on guns, some Democratic lawmakers shied away from increasing the penalty for crimes involving firearms. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee defeated a bipartisan bill that would have increased the penalty for stealing a firearm. They also rejected another bipartisan bill that would have prevented judges from issuing personal recognizance bonds for someone arrested for a third violent felony in two years.