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Colorado Passes Four New Gun Laws

Colorado has had a tumultuous history with gun violence that has shown no signs of letting up in 2023. Following tragedies such as the Club Q Nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs that claimed the lives of five and injured 25, as well as two shootings at East High School in downtown Denver within a month of each other, it has become more evident than ever that gun law reform is necessary and vital in Colorado.


On Friday, April 28, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed off on four new gun reform laws despite rampant late-night filibustering from opposed Republican Party members. The new gun laws deal with age and the time taken to purchase and receive a gun, as well as increased monitoring of gun owners who may become a risk to themselves or others. 


A new law raising the minimum required age to purchase a gun in Colorado from 18 to 21 fuses with another of the newly passed laws that created a three-day waiting period between the purchase and receipt of a gun. These laws aim to keep weapons out of the hands of students still in high school, which likely should have been a bill that went into effect over 20 years ago with Colorado’s extensive history of gun violence from the youth and affecting the state’s schools.


These two new laws altering the age and time it takes to purchase a weapon were promptly sued by Colorado gun rights activists, a report from PBS News highlighted. It’s shocking that even after rampant shootings and gun suicides among young adults in Colorado, attempts to alter and reform these laws to prevent future tragedies are still refuted.


A third gun reform law that Gov. Polis approved strengthens the state’s “Red Flag” law, in which licensed psychologists, teachers, and doctors who are tuned in with the population are able to appeal to a judge to remove someone’s firearm if they appear to be posing a risk to themselves and others. This changes the former Red Flag law as previously the power to do this was only in possession of law enforcement and direct family members. 


The Red Flag law is incredibly relevant to the current situation in Colorado, especially Denver, as high-risk youth have been able to slip through the cracks this year and maintain possession of firearms to the point of using them, despite displaying countless signs of risk. 


The March 28 shooting at East High School that left two administrators injured and the young gunman on the loose was a tragic situation for the city. The student had been receiving mandatory body and backpack searches every day upon coming to school, until the fateful day he fired at two of East High School’s deans while being searched and fled the scene. The fateful situation ended with the discovery of the student’s body in the foothills outside of Denver from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 


Had the Red Flag law that was passed on April 28 been in effect, a school counsellor or teacher could have promptly had the student’s weapon taken from him by the state, rather than settling for a full body search every day before the student’s entrance to the school. Unfortunately, before these updates to the Red Flag law this was East High School’s only option. 


PBS News’ coverage of these new gun reform laws in Colorado quoted Dem. Senate President Steve Fenberg’s stance on Colorado Republican gun activists often opposing new gun laws by claiming it is too soon to discuss banning weapons. Fenberg was quoted saying, “It isn’t too soon, it’s too late for so many of the lost souls, we needed to have done more to prevent what happened.” 


Fenberg’s quote could also be attributed to many of the people who took advantage of the rapid process to own a firearm in Colorado to commit suicide in a particularly dark time. The new law creating a three-day waiting period between the purchase and access to a firearm will hopefully dissuade and prevent some of these shocking and irrational events that are all too common in Colorado


More of the arguments from the Republican side confronting these laws that inspired their late-night filibuster on April 28th included that the Red Flag law might discourage veterans from speaking honestly to psychiatrists and doctors out of fear of having their firearms temporarily revoked. This argument provokes a slight gray area as veterans are at an increased risk for suicide and mental health crises, yet there is also a sense of pride and authority from their years in service they may take with their constitutional ownership of a firearm.


Filibustering and protesting gun activists also argued that victims of domestic violence who may need to soon defend themselves may get caught up in the three-day waiting period to receive a weapon. These are valid and important arguments to bring up, yet entirely circumstantial in the grand scheme of mass gun violence’s place in Colorado history. At a certain point, change will not just be encouraged but necessary, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has likely found the state at the tipping point where new laws are vital to the continued safety and development of Denver and its surrounding counties. 


The fourth and final gun reform law removes some of the previously ironclad legal protection for businesses in the firearm industry, opening up more opportunities for families and individuals affected by gun violence to potentially sue manufacturers and distributors. This is important in keeping the citizens of Colorado’s needs in the state government's purview, as countless lives are ripped apart upon each individual tragedy that occurs due to gun violence, it seems clear that those emotionally affected could be compensated. 


These new Colorado gun laws hope to usher in a more stable sense of security and peace of mind for residents of the state as the fear surrounding these repeated instances of violence began to seep and overflow into every corner of the state. 

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