As of April 26, the Gun Violence Archive had reported 160 mass shootings and 11 mass murders in the United States in 2021. The Washington D.C.-based research group defines a mass shooting as an incident where four or more people are injured or killed by a gun, and a mass murder as an incident where four or more people are killed by a gun.
From Columbine High School to an Aurora movie theater to a Boulder grocery store, Coloradans intimately understand the devastation that follows gun violence. And slowly but surely, our state government is reacting.
In 2019, the Colorado General Assembly joined 18 other states in passing a red flag law. The controversial piece of legislation allows a family member, roommate or law enforcement officer to petition a judge to temporarily remove a person’s firearms if deemed an immediate threat to themselves or others.
The Denver Post recently published a study reviewing how the law was utilized across the state last year. According to the newspaper, at least 112 petitions were filed for extreme risk protection orders in 24 Colorado counties in 2020.
Forty-six of those cases resulted in a judge granting a year-long protection order requiring the release of firearms to authorities. Almost all of the judge-approved orders were filed by law enforcement officers. And nearly 80 percent of the individuals required to give up firearms under the law reported problems with mental health and/or substance abuse, The Denver Post found.
Governor Jared Polis signed two pieces of gun control legislation into law earlier this month. Both bills were introduced to the Colorado General Assembly in the weeks before the Boulder shooting.
House Bill 1106 requires gun owners to store firearms in a safe or with a locking device to prevent unsupervised juveniles or other unauthorized users from accessing the weapons. The bill also requires licensed gun dealers to provide a locking device with the sale or transfer of firearms. Violators could face a class two misdemeanor offense for “unlawful storage of firearms.”
Senate Bill 78 requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement within five days of discovering the weapon is missing. Failure to report lost or stolen guns may result in a civil offense punishable by fine.
A gun control package prepared by Democratic legislators is also expected to hit the floor of the Colorado General Assembly in the coming weeks.
The package is anticipated to include a bill that would temporarily bar individuals convicted of a violent misdemeanor from purchasing a firearm, as well as a measure that would close a loophole allowing gun sellers to transfer firearms to purchasers without a completed background check. Democrats have also said they hope to eliminate a law that currently prohibits Colorado’s counties and municipalities from enacting gun regulations stricter than those found in state statute.
The Herald will continue to monitor the ways our state legislature addresses the nation’s gun violence epidemic — what the newspaper believes should be a top bipartisan priority — throughout 2021.