Bump Stocks Discussed at all Levels of Government

Denver passes ban, state and federal legislation introduced on both sides of gun debate

After the massacre at a Las Vegas concert in October, bump stocks came onto the nation’s radar. The device, used by shooter Stephen Paddock, gives rapid-fire capabilities to semi-automatic weapons. A bump stock ban has been suggested in Denver several times in the past three months and, at the end of January, passed.

Shortly after the Las Vegas shooting, a Denver citizen attending a City Council meeting suggested a bump stock ban, Denver City Council member Rafael Espinoza said. It was a feasible action, but no action was taken, he said. The same citizen came back in November after a shooting at a rural church in Texas. 

“I don’t want to be in the position of having not done something every time there is a mass shooting when we could and should do something,” Espinoza said. 

Espinoza early last month introduced a Denver ordinance to ban bump stocks, and City Council passed it Jan. 22. Councilman Kevin Flynn introduced an amendment to the ordinance prior to the vote. 

The ordinance calls into question Denver’s longstanding 1989 home rule provision banning the sale and possession of assault weapons with a magazine capacity of 21 rounds or more. 

People who owned banned guns were grandfathered in as long as they had registered their weapons. The ordinance has been challenged a handful of times and eventually prevailed at the state’s highest court in 2005 after a split ruling. 

But in 2013, the Colorado General Assembly passed a bill banning magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Flynn’s amendment would have retained the grandfather provision from 1989 for magazines with 16 to 20 rounds. It stated that if a magazine with more than 15 rounds stayed in the home, it would remain legal. 

“I’m not worried about the 16th bullet in a domestic violence situation, I’m worried about the first bullet,” Flynn said. 

Flynn said going into the vote, he believed he had the votes to pass the amendment and communicated with Espinoza about a compromise, but the amendment failed in a 6-6 vote on the floor. 

Flynn was the sole no-vote on the bump stock ordinance. He stressed that he is in favor of the bump stock ban but voted no to express his disapproval on the amendment’s failure to pass.

“[The ordinance] wasn’t in danger, and I had no problem with that,” Flynn said. “It was entirely based on the amendment. I voted no on the entire bill as a protest for reneging on the compromise.” 

Espinoza said he didn’t intend to give Flynn the impression that he supported the amendment and planned to vote for it. He said he felt it was a great compromise, but his vote reflected his primary concern: public safety.

“There are a significant number of incidents where law enforcement makes visits to private residences,” Espinoza said. “It wasn’t lost on me that the shooting of Officer [Zackari] Parrish occurred at a private residence. If it’s not acceptable on the streets, why would we want to be able to put law enforcement and families in a position where they are susceptible to high-capacity shootings in their home?”

Flynn argued that because the amendment did not pass, those grandfathered in under the 1989 ordinance in Denver could be at risk of enforcement. Denver’s 1989 ordinance has conflicted with state law since 2013.

“Passing more restrictive laws instantly made criminals overnight of law abiding gun owners in Denver, potentially in the thousands, who in good faith since 1989 have followed the law,” he said. “Suddenly what we told them they could have, they couldn’t have.”

Other State & Federal Legislation on Guns

Senate Bill 51 – Prohibit Multi-Burst Trigger Activators

A handful of firearms bills have been introduced at the state and federal levels. Minority Whip Sen. Michael Merrifield introduced a bill that would add multi-burst trigger activators (such as bump stocks) to the definition of “dangerous weapon,” making the devices illegal. Merrifield said the shooting in Las Vegas was the impetus for the bill. 

He anticipates that passing the legislation will be difficult, and although it’s currently in a kill committee, he hopes to sway those opposed.

“My hope is that the members of the committee will be open-minded and listen to reasonable debate,” Merrifield said. “It deserves a debate from the whole Senate.” 

House Bill 1015 – Repeal Ban on High Capacity Magazines

This bill seeks to repeal prohibitions on high-capacity magazines. Rep. Lori Saine has introduced the bill each session since 2013, when the legislature passed the 15-round limit.

“Since that time, it has done nothing to increase safety,” Saine said. “Our sheriffs say it’s unenforceable, and unenforceable laws are bad laws. It breeds contempt for law.” 

House Bill 1037 – Guns in Schools

If passed, the bill would remove limitations on guns in schools, allowing individuals with concealed carry permits to bring firearms into K-12 public schools. A similar bill was introduced last year but died in a House committee.

S. 1916 – Firearms Accessories

S. 2009 – Background Check Expansion Act

Sen. Michael Bennet co-sponsored three federal gun bills late last year alongside more than 70 other lawmakers. Bill 1916 would make the sale, manufacture, transfer and possession of accessories such as trigger cranks and bump stocks illegal. Bill 2009 amends background check laws to include all firearm transfers.

— Kaley LaQuea

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