by Sylvia Bernstein, Action and Advocacy Chair and Gun Safety Team Leader
Just over two months ago the LWVBC formed a Gun Safety Issue team in the wake of the March 22 mass shooting at the King Soopers in Boulder. This team has been meeting weekly in order to decide how we can most effectively advocate for enhanced gun safety legislation during the waning weeks of the 2021 legislative session, and strategize about the future. We started by reaching out to the local Moms Demand Action chapters, as well as the local chapter of the NAACP, Zonta, and the Women’s Collaborative. We also reached out to most of our Boulder County legislators to encourage the introduction of new gun safety bills that might have prevented the King Soopers tragedy.
The following summarizes actions that you can take, some recent statistics on the state of gun violence in Colorado, and the status of the six gun safety bills that have been introduced in the state legislature this year.
June 4th is Gun Violence Awareness Day.
You are encouraged to wear orange on Friday the 4th and the entire weekend to raise awareness of the issue of gun violence.
The day was originally established by the friends of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who had marched in Obama’s second inaugural parade. Only a week later she was shot and killed in crossfire in Chicago. Her friends and family chose to remember her by wearing orange on her birthday. They chose orange because it was her favorite color and it is the color hunters wear to protect themselves from gunfire.
Gun Violence in Colorado
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has released firearm fatality data for 2020.
Homicide 235 43% increase over 2019
Suicide 649 2% increase over 2019
Legal Intervention 28
Total Firearms Deaths: 918*
*The numbers do not add up because not all legal interventions are by firearms.
It is striking that during the pandemic, gun homicides rose significantly, but gun suicides remained near constant. In 2020, firearms accounted for 70% of homicides, while guns were used in 50% of suicides. (source: Colorado Ceasefire)
Gun Safety Legislation
This legislative session has been a memorable one for gun safety bills. Three gun safety bills had already been introduced before the March 22 massacre, and three more bills were introduced as a result of that event. The LWVCO Legislative Action Committee (LAC) has been tracking and supporting all of these and our Gun Safety Team has been working closely with Rionda Osman and Jean Fredlund who lead that effort. We have also testified three times during committee hearings in support of the newly introduced bills.
As of this writing, here is the status of the six bills that have been introduced (Boulder County legislative sponsors are noted parenthetically)
● Signed by the Governor
○ HB21-1106, Safe Storage Of Firearms - This bill requires that firearms be responsibly and securely stored when they are not in use to prevent access by unsupervised juveniles and other unauthorized users.
○ SB21-078, Lost Or Stolen Firearms (sponsored by Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis) - This bill requires an individual who owns a firearm to report the loss or theft of that firearm to a law enforcement agency within 5 days after discovering that the firearm was lost or stolen.
● Passed both houses of the legislature and awaiting the Governor’s signature
○ HB21-1255 Protection Order Issued Against Domestic Abuser (sponsored by Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis) - This bill modifies the required procedures relating to a respondent's firearms or ammunition following the issuance of a protection order.
○ HB21-1299, Office Of Gun Violence Prevention - This bill establishes the office of gun violence prevention within the department of public health and environment to coordinate and promote effective efforts to reduce gun violence. The office is required to conduct public awareness campaigns to educate the general public about state and federal laws and existing resources relating to gun violence prevention.
●House considering Senate Amendments
○ HB21-1298, Expand Firearm Transfer Background Check Requirements to Include Violent Misdemeanor (sponsored by Rep. Judy Amabile) - This bill prohibits the bureau from approving the transfer of a firearm to a person who was convicted of specified misdemeanor offenses.
● Passed by the Senate, awaiting debate in the House
○ SB21-256, Local Regulation Of Firearms (sponsored by Senator Steve Fenberg and Rep. Edie Hooton) - This bill permits a local government to enact an ordinance, regulation, or other law governing or prohibiting the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of a firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory.
While the magnitude of the problem of gun violence in Colorado is enormous, the magnitude of the momentum to drive change is equally enormous. The LWVBC Gun Safety team is now meeting every other week on Thursdays at 3:00. We are beginning to work on a Red Flag Law community education program in coordination with Moms Demand Action, the Colorado Attorney General’s office, and other partner organizations. Our goal is to increase awareness of how to use the Red Flag (Emergency Risk Protection Order, ERPO) law in Boulder County, and beyond, if you know of someone who is at risk of endangering themselves or others with a firearm and should have that firearm temporarily removed from their possession. If you are interested in joining us in this important effort please contact Sylvia Bernstein at SylviaLBernstein@gmail.com