BROOMFIELD — The Broomfield City Council on Tuesday moved forward on passing multiple ordinances restricting residents’ gun rights, while pausing two of the most controversial — hoping the state legislature takes up the issues instead — with one councilwoman outright admitting some of the actions are purely political moves.
Majority Democrats taking up many, if not all of Broomfield’s restrictions in the 2023 legislative session seems likely, with one proposed bill already reported on by Compete Colorado that would ban the entire class of semi-automatic weapons.
Jennifer Hoffman, Broomfield City and County Manager told the council there are many more to come.
“Nothing has (been introduced in the legislature) yet, but it’s our understanding there is a half dozen bills in draft form right now,” Hoffman said. “There were 630 bills introduced last year, I’m assuming we’ll have another 630 bills introduced this year. A significant number of them, upwards of probably a dozen will include either portions of or all these items.”
In the meantime, local governments such as Broomfield can still pass their own regulations after Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 256, passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature in 2021. The new law unwound decades of state preemption and allows local governments to manage their own gun laws, but only so long as they are more restrictive than those at the state level, meaning the law only allows for a one-way ratcheting up rather than true local control.
The new ordinances were passed despite the fact that the overwhelming number of residents speaking during the public hearing were opposed to the added restrictions, as has been the case in past meetings.
Council backpedals on two ordinances
The biggest debates of the night came over Ordinances 2189 and 2192, which would have changed the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and require a 10-day waiting period prior to the sale of firearms and proof of competence with firearms, respectively.
Councilman Deven Shaff asked that both measures be postponed until the council’s June 13th hearing, which set off sometimes heated discussions among council members.
The change-of-age ordinance started off the night with harsh statements directed at fellow council members, and both state and federal lawmakers.
Councilman Todd Cohen said the reason he believes Broomfield needs to act on the matter is because no one else will.
“Simply because the federal government has failed over t20 years to take any action,” Cohen said. “Colorado has passed a number of good legislation but none that are really useful, (sic) such as this one.”
Shaff responded that only the state and federal government acting on this will avoid a patchwork of laws, adding the council looked at this because they thought more municipalities would work together from a regional standpoint.
“It has to some degree happened,” Shaff said. “But to a larger degree it has not. So moving forward it would create a patchwork of local ordinances and pit one municipality against another.”
Councilman James Marsh-Holschen said the ordinance just simply wasn’t effective.
“If someone who’s 18 years old wants to buy a firearm, they can walk outside of Broomfield and buy a firearm,” Marsh-Holschen said. “I am not afraid of lawsuits, my thoughts are bring them on. But if it’s not going to be effective in Broomfield and it’s going to get challenged, then let the state pay to defend it.”
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), a Loveland-based organization, has launched several lawsuits, claiming Second Amendment infringements for locally passed gun restrictions against Boulder, Superior, Louisville and Boulder County. The judges in the Superior and Boulder County cases have issued temporary restraining orders blocking enactment of some of the laws. Louisville and Boulder have agreed on their own to stay their ordinances while the case is being litigated, a signal that it is believed the ordinances will be struck down.
Board members agreed to write a letter to the Governor and state legislature telling them they should pass a statewide age change.
Councilwoman Heidi Henkel said the better option would have been to pass the age increase and still send the letter, vowing to not to be part of a vote that allows a mass shooting in Broomfield.
“It says we want you to do something that we’ve already set forward,” Henkel said. “That is a very powerful message. Six of the nine deadliest mass shooting suspects were all under 21. This is something we can’t say won’t happen in Broomfield. And not on my watch. And not on my vote will a gun be purchased in Broomfield to use in a mass shooting.”
The vote to postpone the age change passed with Mayor Pro Tem Stan Jezierski and council members Jean Lim, Marsh-Holschen, Shaff and Laurie Anderson all in favor. Jezierski and Lim had voted to pass the ordinance on first reading in November.
Marsh-Holschen had the same response to Ordinance 2192 that he did Ordinance 2189.
“This is also one of those that should be done at the state level,” he said. “It does not make sense to me at all. “It’s unenforceable at the local level. It’s not going to have any effect.”
Councilman Todd Cohen wanted to pass the ordinance but delay the implementation until July 1 to push the buttons of state legislators.
“I believe a passage with delayed effect would be a much more potent political message,” Cohen said. “To table and just wait and see is just weak tea. That’s how it will be viewed by the legislature.”
A politicized debate
Henkel had even stronger feelings against postponing the waiting period and education resolution than she did the age change, even alleging that not a single firearms’ expert opposed the education piece.
“The state already told us you guys are in control,” Henkel said. “Every single firearms’ expert actually supported this.”
Her comments drew backfire from fellow council members who called the allegations untrue, prompting the mayor to ask them to please not bicker with one another. Some in the audience also interrupted Henkel, prompting the mayor to threaten to take a recess if the public didn’t stop interrupting.
Henkel’s frustration didn’t stop at fellow council members, she also called out members of the audience.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t recognize anyone of you in this audience who are refusing your training,” she said to those who spoke against the ordinances. “I have no words for you. None. If we don’t make this change locally, that sends the message that we don’t care.”
Broomfield’s population is just over 75,000.
Henkel also attacked the state legislature and fellow councilmembers in her remarks, hinting that there are some policies coming during this session, but not a requirement for gun competency to purchase.
“I have no faith in our state legislature to add an education piece to it,” Henkel said. “We have seen a 10-day delay, we have seen some other things. But if we don’t pass this and say, ‘hey we’ve done the legal leg work for you then we don’t have a leg to stand on. We’re just going to say we just passed the buck back to you.”
Anderson reminded everyone that this law would only apply to guns purchased in Broomfield.
“Broomfield residents will just go outside the city and will come right back in with those firearms,” Anderson said. “If you just simply drive outside the borders you won’t have to do the education piece.”
Anderson also said she has problems with identifying what is a “firearms expert.”
“Is it someone whose dad trained them up to hunt safely when they were younger, someone who took multiple safety classes. I don’t know how we define that,” Anderson said. “But we can’t say that everyone out there is not qualified to own a gun. If the state doesn’t put an education piece in and only Broomfield has it, then we are still not accomplishing anything.”
Henkel threatened that if the ordinance wasn’t passed now she would be asking to strengthen the education piece during the next go round to include range time, accusing some members of the council for buckling to political pressure.
“You have to have education before you even shoot a gun,” she said. “I’m really just disappointed, to be honest, with some members on council who wanted to move forward with this so bad and yet are willing to wait on others, when you don’t know what they are going to do. It just saddens me. And it’s because it got real political, real quick.”
Henkel never did say how learning how to properly shoot a gun would decrease gun violence. Nor did she address whether those who can’t afford the education piece would essentially be denied a right under the Second Amendment.
Anderson brought up data collected by Broomfield staff showing that of the 27 gun-related incidents (all of which were suicides except three) in Broomfield since 2017 none of the guns were purchased in Broomfield.
“So we can do all we want, all the education, all the training, but his isn’t going to make a difference unless this is done at the state level, and more likely the national level,” Anderson said. “So lets take the time and see what the state legislature does and do this right.”
The vote to postpone passed 5-4 with the same lineup of council members voting in favor: Jezierski, Lim, Marsh-Holschen, Shaff and Anderson. Jezierski, Lim and Marsh-Holschen voted to pass the ordinance in November.
- Banning the sale and possession of rapid-fire trigger activators passed 8-1 with Anderson the only no. It passed first reading unanimously in November.
- Regulating the possession of unserialized firearms, usually kit guns put together by hobbyists passed 7-2 with Anderson and Shaff voting no. It passed first reading unanimously in November.
- Requiring all firearm dealers in Broomfield to post signs and provide an educational notification where a firearm sale/transfer occurs passed unanimously. It passed first reading unanimously in November.
- Prohibiting the open carry of firearms in public places located in Broomfield passed unanimously. It passed first reading unanimously in November.
- Prohibiting the concealed carry of firearms in city and county owned and operated places passed 7-2 with Cohen and Henkel the no votes. It passed 8-2 — James Marsh-Holschen and Todd Cohen voting no on first reading in November.
Two other ordinances were passed that were housekeeping measures to make the new codes consistent with current ones.
Cohen and Henkel voted no on the concealed carry based on their belief that the council should encourage education and concealed carry. They also cited the cost to the city to implement the ordinance, which includes metal detectors and additional staff. Staff estimates between $200,000 and $300,000 additional a year in cost. The ordinance was amended to clarify that concealed carry is only banned in government buildings where metal detectors and security are present. The city manager will be responsible for determining where and when security is added.
“The intention is to utilize it only when really necessary,” Anderson said. “It’s not going to change drastically how it currently is.”
“I think it’s an unusual carve out,” he said. “I think we want to incentivize people to have concealed carry opposed to open carry. You get more training and you’re more skilled. That’s what we want people to do.”
The new ordinances will take effect Nov. 17.
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