BOULDER — A controversial city ordinance to ban “assault weapons, bump stocks and high capacity magazines” passed the Boulder City Council unanimously on first reading Thursday night after more than five hours of public testimony on both sides of the issue.
As written, the ban would require anyone legally possessing anything under the ban to either register that gun with the Boulder Police Department (fee charged) or surrender it for destruction.
The first reading passage is not a final decision. The Council could make changes on second or even a third reading before it becomes law.
Councilwoman Jill Adler Grano, who asked for the ordinance, called the ban a “no brainer.”
“I don’t see this as taking away Second Amendment rights,” Grano said. “The Second Amendment does not protect assault weapons. There have been hundreds and hundreds of mass shootings in America. This is a long overdue proposal. I think it’s time to say enough, not in the city of Boulder.”
The interest in the ordinance drew hundreds of residents, most of whom watched the hearing on televisions in two additional rooms.
For the most part, attendees were respectful of each other. The mayor at one point asked the audience to refrain from clapping.
“It is uncomfortable for some,” she said.
City attorney Tom Carr asked the audience to stop laughing at him as he tried to explain the nuances of various types of guns.
Those in favor of the ban say something must be done to stop the bleeding. Those opposed say gun ownership is a Second Amendment right.
Republican Gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson said Friday that he agreed with the latter and, if elected, would financially penalize any city or county that took away those rights.
“Regardless of where they live, citizens of Colorado have a fundamental Second Amendment right,” Robinson told Complete Colorado. “Any city that attempts to take away that right, or undermine state or federal law will lose state funding in a Robinson Administration.”
Many also argued it will criminalize thousands of Boulder residents with a simply stroke of a pen.
David Kopel, a Constitutional Law professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law and Independence Institute Research Director told council members they should talk to the Attorney General before they take any action, saying there are profound problems with state preemption laws.
“The city attorney’s point of view that any gun that doesn’t have a pistol grip but just has some kind of protrusion on the stock turns this into a very, very broad ban,” Kopel said, also encouraging them to ask about other features that make it illegal. “If two people own a gun and one is 5-foot-2 and the other is 6-foot-4 the stock can be adjusted so it’s a better fit for the user. It is hard to see how that does not violate the constitutional right to arms to say that a gun because it fits better becomes more unconstitutional, and I think the same can be said about many of the other features on the list.”
Kopel, who is considered one of the foremost authorities on the Second Amendment, has written more than a dozen books on the subject. Still, Councilman Sam Weaver challenged Kopel because of his affiliation with the Independence Institute and the National Rifle Association.
Kopel added magazines over 10 rounds constitute over half of all magazines sold in the last 20 years.
“The criminalization of them with no grandfathering will turn a very large percentage of the population of Boulder into retroactive criminals, and people won’t register because they are afraid of confiscation,” he said.
DIFFERING OPINIONS —
There wasn’t much room for compromise Thursday. Advocates of the gun ban said if it saves just one life it will all be worth it. While opponents compared it to WWII Germany under Adolf Hitler.
Proponents say the Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to own semiautomatic guns, while opponents say they are needed to meet the “well-regulated Militia” component.
Laura Carno, author of Government Ruins Nearly Everything and founder of Coloradans for Civil Liberties (an Independence Institute partner organization) said the problem is gun ban activists don’t see the what if?
“There are so many people in America that can’t picture that happening here because we’re not tyrannical,” Carno said. “We have a constitutional republic. We have freedom. We’re a democracy. They can’t picture tyranny happening here.”
Sarah Kelly, a Boulder teacher said Second Amendment supporters don’t see the other side.
“The list of victims from shootings is far longer than the list of the deceased. It’s a lifelong wound that never heals; it’s a never-ending battle with PTSD nightmares grief and anxiety,” said Kelly, who lost her brother to gun violence. “Every time you hear about another shooting on TV a wave of emotion hits you like a brick in the face.”
Grano said she found it interesting that many of the people who spoke against the ban were from unincorporated Boulder County. She did not point out, however, that many of the gun-ban supporters were not only from outside Boulder city limits but also outside Boulder County. Some of the gun control proponents who spoke travel from one public meeting to another reading letters from family members of Sandy Hook Elementary School, victims and survivors of Columbine High School and Aurora movie theater victims and survivors.
Many women testified against the ordinance as did college students of both genders.
Anne Michelle Hill, co-chairwoman of the Boulder chapter of Mom’s Demand Action, suggested magazines holding more than 10 rounds are “the common denominators in these mass shootings.” Hill stated, “High capacity magazines are accessories that make guns more dangerous. Limiting magazine sizes to 10 can force active shooters to reload giving people precious seconds to get away or restrain the shooter and potentially save lives. That drive time might be just the time to change their mind.”
Hill added Boulder should lead the way in passing these types of bans because government leaders do not have the courage to do so.
“Those in Washington don’t start a movement, they watch what’s gaining traction in local areas,” Hill said. “I believe Boulder would have that traction.”
Carno wasn’t convinced, she said if the guns are gone it will be something different.
“We are talking about a product that law abiding people lawfully purchased, and they have never done anything wrong with,” Carno said. “To have a government entity say, ‘I’m going to take from you honestly acquired property that has never done harm to anyone,’ that should be chilling for everyone.”
*Editor’s note: Complete Colorado is a product of the Independence Institute. Front page photo by Scott Weiser.