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Boulder County commissioners push for stricter state gun laws

The commissioners are supporting state legislation that aims to prevent gun violence.
Colorado State Capitol.

Boulder County commissioners are advocating for bills that would increase the age to purchase firearms, establish a waiting period and expand the state’s red-flag law.

Commissioners Marta Loachamin and Claire Levy shared testimony earlier this month in support of the legislation, which aims to prevent suicides and gun deaths.

HB23-1219 would establish a waiting period of three days — or however long it takes to complete a background check — for a seller to deliver a firearm to a buyer.

“There’s data that shows, in the case of partner violence, that often the firearm that is used has been purchased very recently,” Levy said. “It’s that impulsivity, that passion, that anger of the moment, that with a waiting period can subside … it’s a chance for you to calm down and realize there might be another way to address the problem.”

Boulder County passed a 10-day waiting period ordinance in June, but residents can travel to a different jurisdiction to buy a gun immediately, so the statewide law is essential, Levy said.

“We would’ve preferred something a little bit longer than three days, but any amount of time is to put some separation between what is the motivating factor for buying that weapon and actually coming into possession of it,” she said.

Levy said she thinks the need to secure a gun immediately is rarely needed.

“If somebody has such a pressing, immediate concern about self-defense, I think they probably ought to go to law enforcement and share what that concern is about,” Levy said.

Tara Menza, president of the Longmont Republican Women and team leader of the League of Women Voters Boulder County Gun Safety team, said she believes the proposed bill could help people who are suicidal, but that the legislation isn’t addressing the core issue.

“Right now the bigger problem isn’t waiting periods or extreme risk protection — the problem we have right now is a mental health problem, and the faster we can help these people who are having these mental health problems, I feel like the gun issue will work itself out,” Menza said. “Right now it takes longer for a person to get a mental health appointment than it does for them to purchase a firearm.”

The Boulder County commissioners also support SB23-169, which would increase the legal age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21. 

“That critical age between 18 and 21 is a time when the research tells us young men and young women are really prone to impulsiveness,” Levy said. “They’re not necessarily fully formed critical thinkers, and it’s also an age at which mental illness often emerges — high incidences of suicide in that age group, and having ready access to a firearm — it just exacerbates all of these troubling circumstances.”

The proposed legislation would include limited exceptions such as attending a safety course, target shooting, hunting and serving in professions that require firearms.

“You can purchase a long gun at 18 — you cannot purchase a hand gun until you’re 21,” Menza said. “Because of the mental health problems that we have in our state — in our country — it could be helpful to have a 21 age limit, but then again, you’ve got people who can go into the military at 17; You’ve got people who can vote at 18; You can buy cigarettes at 18.”

The commissioners also advocated for SB23-170, which would expand the state’s red-flag law. The proposed legislation was passed by lawmakers Sunday after several days of Republican filibustering, and now heads to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk.

If enacted, the law would change who can petition for an extreme risk protection order. Under Colorado’s current law, family members, roommates and police officers can petition for the order. The proposed legislation would also allow doctors, licensed mental health care providers, licensed educators and district attorneys to petition for the protection order.

“Right now, none of these gun laws are addressing the mental health problem that we have,” Menza said. “We’ve got to have more mental health help in this state … there’s lots of things we can do, but instead, we’re too busy focusing on gun laws.”

The debate comes after a student shot and injured two administrators in a Denver high school last week. More than 1,000 students gathered at the Colorado State Capitol after the shooting to push for stricter gun laws.

Amber Fisher

About the Author: Amber Fisher

I'm thrilled to be an assistant editor with the Longmont Leader after spending the past decade reporting for news outlets across North America. When I'm not writing, you can find me snowboarding, reading fiction and running (poorly).
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