Fort Collins state representatives to sponsor Colorado's 'mass shooting prevention act'
It’s early in the session, but both of Fort Collins’ legislative representatives are tacking their names on what’s likely to be one of the most strict gun-control bills proposed this session.
Democratic Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, who represents House District 53, which covers the north part of the city, is planning to serve as one of the main sponsors of a bill that would prohibit “a person from manufacturing, importing, purchasing, selling, offering to sell, or transferring ownership of an assault weapon,” and from possessing, manufacturing or selling a rapid-fire trigger activator, according to a draft of the bill obtained by the Coloradoan.
Violations of the bill would result in a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Boesenecker told the Coloradoan he is sponsoring the bill — which is being dubbed the “mass shooting prevention act” — because gun violence prevention is a priority for so many across the state.
“I think for so many communities around Colorado, including Fort Collins, gun violence prevention remains a top priority,” Boesenecker said. “It felt important to really make it one of my first five bills in the legislative session.”
In addition to banning sales, the bill also works to define an assault weapon, which is currently undefined in state statute. It defines an assault weapon as a semiautomatic rifle that can have — or be modified to have — a detachable magazine and has one of a number of other features, including a pistol grip, an element to enhance concealability, a flash suppressor, a threaded barrel and more.
The bill also makes clear that “assault weapon” doesn’t include firearms that have been made permanently inoperable or antique firearms with specific qualifications.
Boesenecker said the definition was developed with the help from gun violence prevention groups like Giffords and Everytown to base the definition off of what other states have passed in similar legislation. Though it was difficult to define, he said it’s important because there are so many different understandings of what firearms and assault weapons are. This bill, he said, strived to get to the heart of the kind of weapon commonly used in mass shootings.
“In this instance, it’s really important to be clear that we defined clearly a category of firearms that are disproportionately represented in mass shooting events,” Boesenecker said.
“We know what we’re talking about, we know what kind of firearms continue to place Coloradans in jeopardy … it’s really important that we get the definitions right to be able to point to the firearms that are, quite frankly, more often than not being used for a particular purpose in those mass shooting events.”
Colorado's extensive history of mass shootings added another bleak chapter in November 2022, when a lone gunman killed five people and wounded 17 others at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.
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There are exceptions to the bill, including that the restrictions wouldn’t apply to members of the military or police departments. It also allows licensed gun dealers who have remaining inventory of assault weapons as of July 1 to sell them to non-Colorado residents as long as the sale or transfer takes place out of state.
When an earlier version of the proposed legislation that included a ban on possession of any assault weapons leaked, the gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners tweeted it out, saying: “It is bad. Contact your Colorado lawmakers and urge them to VOTE NO!”
When the group got hold of a more recent version of the bill that excluded the possession ban, it tweeted that “it is still a nightmare situation.”
The goal of the bill was never to “prohibit or restrict responsible firearms owners from remaining as such,” Boesenecker said, adding that any piece of gun violence legislation is a “pretty heavy lift” to ensure people understand the details of the potential law and what it could and couldn’t do if passed.
Rep. Cathy Kipp, who represents south Fort Collins in District 52, is listed as another house sponsor on the bill in its latest draft.
Kipp did not respond to requests for comment on her involvement.
Both Boesenecker and Kipp told the Coloradoan during their 2022 campaigns that gun violence prevention would be on their agendas if reelected. Boesenecker said at the time he was already drafting his first bills for the 2023 session, one of which addressed gun violence prevention, and Kipp said she hoped for legislation to enforce things like background checks and waiting periods to address growing fears of gun violence.
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Molly Bohannon covers city government for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at email@example.com. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.