Colorado gun law proposal: Age limits on rifles, shotguns

A proposal to limit all firearm purchases and possession to people 21 and older — including rifles and shotguns — will be the first in a slate of bills Democrats hope will curb gun violence in the state.

The bill’s sponsors unveiled the bill Tuesday night in an interview with The Denver Post. It will likely be introduced in the Senate later this week. It will include some exemptions, including for hunters who use single-shot rifles, such as bolt-actions, military members, and sport shooters. It would also allow for supervised possession.

“We know that there’s a disproportionately high rate of violence perpetrated by young people using firearms,” Sen. Jessie Danielson, a Wheat Ridge Democrat, said, adding that that includes suicides.

Danielson, Sen. Kyle Mullica of Thornton, and Reps. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge and Eliza Hamrick of Centennial, all Democrats, cited statistics on the policy from the Giffords Law Center for the need.

According to the center, there was a 61% increase in gun suicides among minors between 2011 and 2020 and 18- to 20-year-olds being 17% of known homicide offenders despite being 4% of the general population chief among them. The Giffords Law Center advocates for more stringent gun laws and is named for former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head at an event.

Duran, who is the House majority leader, said she couldn’t fathom the suicide increase in particular.

“I’m not saying that (the bill’s) going to fix everything, but it sure as hell is an important, huge step in recognizing and acknowledging that we need to do something here in Colorado,” Duran said.

Only six states and Washington, D.C., currently restrict rifle possession, according to Giffords.

All of the sponsors but Danielson said they or immediate family members own guns, and Danielson said she grew up on a Weld County farm where firearms were part of life — a fact they argued shows it’s about responsible gun ownership, not an attack on all gun owners.

Several Republican-led bills have already been introduced, and defeated, in the Democrat-heavy General Assembly, to protect gun ownership rights. Another bill, which would give county commissioners the ability to restrict firing guns in unincorporated areas, has been subject to a floor fight in the House of Representatives. A gun-rights group has likewise pledged to fight legislation it sees as infringing on the Second Amendment — though its leader acknowledged ahead of the session that the courts, and not the General Assembly, is likely where they’ll make headway.

Colorado voters gave Democrats stronger majorities in each chamber of the General Assembly this past November while also reelecting Democrat Gov. Jared Polis. Soon after — and while the state reeled from another mass shooting, this one at Club Q in Colorado Springs — Democratic leaders said their agenda would include a slew of stronger gun laws that included age restrictions, waiting periods and an expansion of the extreme risk protection order, or red flag, law.

Mullica said that, while this is the first bill in the slate of likely gun legislation that will be introduced, it’s not an indicator of one bill being prioritized over the others.

“It’s common sense,” Mullica said. “When we’re out talking to people in our communities, it’s bills like this that they’re asking for.”

Another bill, to define and outright ban the sale of guns deemed assault weapons, has also been floated by some Democrats but not introduced as the caucus debates how to address gun violence in the state.

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