Lawmakers in the Centennial State have officially added to their decade-long gun-control push with a fresh crop of new restrictions. Gun-rights advocates in the state aren’t taking it lying down.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D.) signed into law a package of four bills on Friday. They include waiting periods for gun sales, an expansion of categories of persons able to file for an Extreme Risk Protection Order, a total ban on gun sales to those under 21, and a repeal of the state’s gun industry liability shield against lawsuits for gun crimes committed by third parties.
“Today we are taking some important steps to help make Colorado one of the ten safest states, and building upon the ongoing work to make Colorado communities safer,” Polis said in a statement.
Before the ink was dry on the bills, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) filed two separate lawsuits against the waiting period and sales ban for 18-to-20-year-olds. The group called the new laws “unconstitutional” and said they would harm victims of violent crime.
“For the last few months, I’ve traveled the state promising our members we would sue over these unconstitutional gun control schemes, and today as the governor signs them into law, we are making good on our promises,” Taylor Rhodes, RMGO Executive Director, said in a statement. “When a single mother is being harassed by a violent, abusive former partner, the Democrats at the Capitol think it is fine to make her wait at least three days to defend herself and her baby. And if she is twenty, these gun control fanatics insist she is completely defenseless.”
The group also said it was “strongly considering” filing suits against the red flag expansion and gun industry litigation bill too.
House Bill 23-1219 will create a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases, though it explicitly allows local governments to impose longer waiting periods. The waiting period extends to most private sales as well. It contains a limited exception for military members going on deployment who are selling a firearm to a family member in a private sale. Proposed amendments to exempt domestic violence victims and concealed handgun permit-holders were rejected by Democratic lawmakers. This bill takes effect October 1, 2023.
Senate Bill 23-169 raises the age to purchase any firearm to 21. State law previously allowed 18-year-olds to purchase rifles and shotguns. The measure initially attempted to go further by banning the possession of firearms by anyone under 21, but that provision was dropped after opposition from hunters and other sportsmen. It will take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session.
Senate Bill 23-168 repeals an existing state law that limited private lawsuits against gun dealers and manufacturers. That law predates a similar federal shield—the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act—and contained a financial disincentive for frivolous lawsuits against gun companies. It takes effect on October 1, 2023.
Senate Bill 23-170 expands the state’s existing Extreme Risk Protection Order statute, otherwise known as a “red flag” law, by broadening the list of those who can petition a court for an order. The bill will now allow licensed medical and mental health care providers, teachers, and district attorneys to file petitions. The law previously limited eligibility to family members, cohabitants, and law enforcement. This bill goes into effect immediately.
Governor Polis signing the bill and the immediate response from activists highlight the ongoing tension over gun politics in Colorado. While it remains a western state with a strong tradition of gun rights, it has been a fast-growing destination for urban and suburban educated professionals that have continued to transform the once-perennial swing state into a blue bastion. As a result, gun-control advocates have had some of their strongest successes anywhere in the nation in Colorado over the last ten years.
Since 2013, Democratic lawmakers have passed at least fourteen gun-control laws, including magazine capacity limits, background checks for private sales, safe storage mandates, and a repeal of state preemption. A prospective fifteenth bill, which would ban the possession and sale of unserialized firearms, has already passed the state Senate and is awaiting a vote in the Democratic supermajority-controlled House. Polis has also expressed support for the bill.
At the same time, a ban on the sale of so-called assault weapons proved to be too much for the Democratic Governor. A proposal was killed in committee last month thanks to Polis’ opposition and that of a handful of swing-district Democrats.