Looking to take advantage of their newly granted authority, officials in the city of Boulder, Colorado are prepared to move full steam ahead on what could become the strictest gun laws in the state.
At a Boulder City Council study session meeting earlier this month, members of the council gave the green light to officially consider a sweeping package of new local gun control ordinances. They would do everything from prohibiting open carry, severely limiting locations available for licensed concealed carry, requiring a 10-day waiting period for licensed gun sales, and reinstating the city’s “assault weapons” and magazine bans.
“We really look forward to seeing these come to fruition as a major step for us to protect our community and certainly as we look to the [one] year anniversary from which we lost 10 incredible people in our community,” Boulder Councilmember Matt Benjamin said referencing a mass shooting at a Boulder grocery store. “I think this is a great step for us to show that we’re committed to keeping people safe and we’re committed to a safe and civil society that we live in.”
Attempting to pass restrictive gun laws has long been a priority for the progressive Colorado city. In 2018, Boulder first instituted an assault-weapons ban and prohibition of ammunition magazines with capacities greater than 10 rounds shortly after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The ordinance was almost immediately challenged by gun rights groups and was ultimately deemed unconstitutional under state law in 2021. But after the Colorado General Assembly repealed the state’s decades-old firearm preemption law in 2021—largely in response to the Boulder grocery store shooting that left 10 dead—the city now has new authority to unilaterally enact stringent local gun control laws. The new wave of proposals provides insight into how gun-control advocates plan to take advantage of the preemption walk back and may provide a template for other cities if they are given freer reign over gun regulations.
Cody Wisniewski, director of the Mountain States Legal Foundation’s Center to Keep and Bear Arms, said it is “deeply unfortunate” Boulder is moving forward with the ordinances after his group helped get the previous ones thrown out.
“Given the last ordinances plunged the city into multi-year lawsuits just to end in the city’s ordinances being defeated,” Wisniewski told The Reload. “I would hope that the city council would recognize that any infringement on the rights of their constituents is highly problematic and will subject the city to more litigation.”
Other proposals given the go-ahead by the council include a ban on unserialized firearms and a requirement that licensed gun dealers in the city post a sign reading: “WARNING: Access to a firearm in the home significantly increases the risk of suicide, death during domestic violence disputes and the unintentional death of children, household members or others.” Information containing the number for the suicide hotline and websites for national mental health services would also be required to be posted.
A proposal that would have required licensed gun and ammunition dealers to obtain special law enforcement and land use permits was ultimately tabled due to enforcement concerns among some on the council, but it was not ruled out from future consideration.
Sarah Huntley, a spokesperson for the City of Boulder, told The Reload the proposals advanced by the council were drawn from sample legislation from national gun-control organizations like the Giffords Law Center and Everytown for Gun Safety. She said that attorneys with the city would be working to ensure that final versions of the proposals would be lawful.
“While it is hard for the city to speculate whether anyone will choose to challenge any of our ordinances, we will be ensuring that all of the proposals are consistent with state and federal law,” she said.
Wisniewski said his group plans to “closely monitor” how the ordinances progress. He said the group will file lawsuits against any ordinance it believes infringes on Coloradans’ gun rights. He argued that while the state’s preemption law was key to striking down the previous ordinances, it was not the only protection offered by state and federal law against gun bans or restrictions.
“Regardless of preemption, the ordinances in their prior form violated Boulder residents’ Second-Amendment-protected rights,” he said. “We will watch to see if any new ordinances do the same.”
The proposals now await final drafting from the City Attorney’s Office. Once drafting of the ordinances is complete, the city will hold public hearings to allow for community feedback before sending the bills before the council for final approval.
The public hearing and council vote dates are still to be determined.
“We anticipate drafts will be ready for public and council review in several weeks,” Huntley said.
UPDATE 2-23-2022 7:50 PM EST: This story has been updated to include comments from the City of Boulder.