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Sheriff Williams, along with 3 other Sheriffs testified in opposition to House Bill 24-1292.
Kiowa County Sheriff’s Department

Colorado Lawmakers Attempt to Ban Assault Weapons Again

By Betsy Barnett

March 22, 2024

In the Colorado House this week House Bill 1292 calls for the banning of 13 types of “assault weapons” and was being heard in the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing took over 14 hours and included approximately 600 witnesses who had plenty to say about the bill.

House Bill 1292 was brought to the committee by Reps Elisabeth Epps and Tim Hernandez, both Denver Democrats, and is an exact duplicate of a bill the two introduced last year, but that was shot down. The measure defines “assault weapons” and prohibits the manufacturing, importing, purchasing, selling, offering to sell, or transferring ownership of a gun listed on the bill’s list of assault weapons.

In addition, violations for the first offense of this proposal include $250,000, and $500,000 for a subsequent violation.

The 14 hours of testimony went as expected as the supporters of the bill demanded that “assault” weapons, which they say were designed to be on the battlefield only, are solely meant to kill as many people as quickly as possible. They add that non-combatants have no reason to have access to these types of guns.

Critics of the assault weapons ban point out that this country is suffering through a moral problem and not a gun problem. They add that, when guns are taken out of the hands of the people, then crime and mass shootings are perpetuated in schools and other public places because they are considered “soft targets.” Ultimately, only criminals will have guns if the ban goes through because the rest of the citizenry will follow the law.

This exact same measure was tried last year in the House—actually by Epps herself—but it died then 6-7 when they voted. That vote included 3 Democrats voting against the measure as well as the four Republican members of the committee.

In addition, Governor Polis, last year, was not in favor of such a radical gun grab and said he would veto the bill.

House Speaker Julie McCluskie, a Democrat, has made some moves this year that is shaking up the committee. First, she removed Epps and another member, Rep. Bob Marshall (D) from the committee citing conflicts of interest. Another member, Rep. Said Sharbini (D), resigned at the end of the year.

Both Marshall and Sharbini had been two of the “no” votes in 2023. All three have now been replaced by representatives who McCluskie touted reflects more progressive viewpoints.

HB 1292 is now scheduled to move to the full House where it is expected to pass due to the majority of Democrats.

In the Senate it may have a bit tougher time to get through and Polis says he still maintains his position that he’ll veto this bill as well.

In addition, if HB 1292 would happen to pass the Colorado Legislature and the Governor’s desk, it more than likely will be challenged in court.

During the hearing the people who were for the assault weapon ban cited the number of mass shootings committed by and of the 13 “assault” weapons defined in the bill. They include Uzis, Thompson, and AK and AR-type weapons.

A number of high school students also testified as to their support of the bill as they have in the past experienced great fear at their schools, and either been involved in a school shooting or were afraid one could happen. They complained that they have been living with active shooter drills their entire lives.

On the other side of the topic Mark Geist told the committee that the country has a morality problem, not a gun problem. Geist is a military veteran and said policymakers “can outlaw American people, who are law-abiding citizens, from having the right to own firearms, but there’s still going to be people who are going to cause crime and murder—with guns.”

Many witnesses against the ban cited a ban on these guns will disproportionately hurt the women, LGBTQ people, disabled people, and people of color.

Another witness noted that criminals who wish to commit gun crimes focus on “soft targets” such as schools because that is a gun free zone. They concluded by pointing out there’s no criminals trying to shoot up police stations or military bases.

Finally, the sheriffs and police departments across Colorado are against the ban. They noted that gun owners are in the large majority responsible and present no problems or cause a mass shooting.

Four county sheriffs testified in opposition to the bill including Kiowa County Sheriff Bryan Williams. The Sheriffs also cited this is a constitutional right for their citizenry. They said they are tired of these “compromising constitutional rights bills that gradually and methodically chip away at liberty under the guise of public safety.”

Because HB 1292 contained such exorbitant penalties it would have been required to go through two more committee reviews, but an amendment from the sponsors lessened the fines to a petty offense. Therefore, the bill now goes to the full House for debate.

The Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office made a statement after the bill passed for consideration in the full House, “Unfortunately it made it through the committee. NOW is the time to make your calls and send emails to your legislators. This Bill has to go through the House first, then the Senate. PLEASE, don’t sit on your hands for this one. Take the time to contact your elected officials and ask them to oppose this Bill to protect your gun rights.”

View the bill here.

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