The Boulder City Council on Thursday night unanimously passed on first reading an ordinance that bans the sale and possession of certain firearms defined as assault weapons.
The council adjourned following a more than five-hour-long meeting where nearly 150 people spoke for and against the proposed ordinance, which would also prohibit high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, a device that allows a semi-automatic weapon to be fired more like a fully automatic rifle.
How does the proposed law define ‘assault weapons’?
As City Attorney Tom Carr has drafted it, “assault weapons” are defined as:
–All semiautomatic rifles that have the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and that have any of the following characteristics: a pistol grip or thumbhole stock; a folding or telescoping stock; or any protruding grip or other device to allow the weapon to be stabilized with the non-trigger hand.
–All semi-automatic center-fire pistols that have any of the following characteristics: the capacity to accept a magazine other than in the pistol grip or any device to allow the weapon to be stabilized with the non-trigger hand.
–Any firearm that has been modified to be operable as an assault weapon as defined by the city, plus any part or combination or parts designed to convert a firearm into an assault weapon.
Council members will deliberate the measure at a future meeting and possibly pass it twice more before it becomes an enshrined Boulder ordinance.
The proposed ban comes in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February that left 17 students and staff dead and sparked a renewed debate on gun control in the United States.
A Boulder resident voices his opinion on the proposed gun ban. #boulder #GunContolNow #Colorado #MomsDemandAction #NRA pic.twitter.com/E46iXCiPVR
— Jeremy Papasso (@jpapasso) April 6, 2018
Councilwoman Jill Adler Grano proposed, and received support for, consideration of a ban and called it a “no-brainer” — a sentiment that she stuck with on Thursday night just ahead of the vote.
“This is not a knee-jerk reaction,” Adler Grano said. “If it were a knee-jerk reaction, it would have come after the first mass shooting and there have been hundreds. I think it’s time to say ‘enough.'”
She added that the proposed ordinance does not strip residents of their Second Amendment rights — which was a fear expressed throughout the public hearing on Thursday — because the Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to an assault rifle.
In the 30 minutes prior to Thursday’s 6 p.m. meeting, City Council chambers were soon packed to the rafters. The downstairs lobby soon filled up as well. Spectators were eventually sent to the nearby Boulder Public Library to watch the proceedings on television.
People wearing National Rifle Association regalia could be seen sitting alongside those decked out in Moms Demand Action gear. Representatives of the NRA handed out orange hats bearing the gun advocacy organization’s logo and handed out talking points for people who wanted to speak.
Emotions ran high as dozens of speakers for and against the ban quoted statistics and referenced numerous mass shootings. Numerous people against the proposal invoked the Holocaust as an argument against gun control.
A Virginia tech shooting survivor speaks about the proposed #Boulder gun ban at a special city Council hearing #GUNviolence #MomsDemandAction #Colorado pic.twitter.com/0jYhHuVtVj
— Jeremy Papasso (@jpapasso) April 6, 2018
People speaking out against the ban — and there were more of them than people in favor of the ban — generally said that it would be ineffective and infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens. They also contended that it would waste taxpayer money in the event of a legal challenge, which has already been threatened by at least one group.
Boulder resident Kevin Tripp opposes the ban and said that the City Council was promoting a false dichotomy that those against the proposed ordinance don’t care about the safety of the community.
“We care for everyone,” he said. “If someone comes into my home to kill one of my family members, they will die; not me, not my family. … We all want to protect life, and an AR-15 is a tool to protect life.”
Boulder County resident Duke Prentup said he is a former police officer and he opposes the ban because it violates not only his Second Amendment rights, but also his Fourth and Sixth Amendment rights.
“It’s a historical fact that such attempts have been made in the past,” he said, referring to gun control efforts. “None has resulted in credible results other than they didn’t work as intended.”
Boulder resident Josh Ritzer said that the proposed ordinance “needs work” and he can’t support or not support it yet, but he backs efforts to make it more difficult for “dumb and evil people” to access firearms. He also supports requiring increasing levels of training for gun owners depending on what type of weapons they want.
Ritzer is a member of Boulder-based anti-gun violence group Red on Hands.
“It’s silly; we require law enforcement and the military to go through all this training,” he said. “We don’t require civilians to go through the same training.”
Those in favor of the ban spoke of fear of school shootings and at least two people said they had friends or family killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting or Aurora theater shooting. One woman gave a graphic description of the wounds sustained by a victim at the theater shooting.
Shawn Rodda said that she has worried about the staff at the front of her children’s elementary school because — like the Sandy Hook shooting — it would be easy for someone to walk in the front door with a rifle. She asked that the City Council approve the ordinance.
“Let’s not become another Parkland or a Newtown,” Rodda said. “It’s not enough to say it won’t happen here. Maybe won’t stop all shootings. Maybe we won’t stop all crimes from happening. But we can do something.”
Boulder resident Sarah Kelly said that she grew up in a home with guns, but her brother was shot and killed, and she was in support of the ban as someone who has lost a loved one to gun violence and “the list of shooting victims is longer than the list of the deceased.
“Every time there is a shooting on the TV, it hits you like a brick,” she said. “Even if we prevent one gun death and another family doesn’t have to endure what mine has, it will be worth it.”
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