President of the Senate Sen. Stephen Fenberg on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette)

Should the newly-introduced bill on "assault weapons" reach the state Senate, it's unlikely to find enough friends who could get it out of that chamber, according to Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday.

While they didn't offer an official position on how they would vote, Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, and Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, D-Adams County, noted just how contentious the last time legislators tackled similar proposals. 

Fenberg hinted the "hesitation" toward the "assault weapons," and how some people, even if supportive of the idea, view it as a potential distraction.

The two leaders discussed the upcoming gun bills on Tuesday morning, a day before three gun control bills are up for debate in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee:

  • Senate Bill 170, which would add district attorneys, health care professionals and educators to the list of persons who can seek an extreme risk protection order, better known as a "red flag";
  • Senate Bill 168, which would allow victims of gun violence to sue firearms manufacturers and gun dealers; and,
  • Senate Bill 169, which would ban the sale of firearms to anyone under the age of 21. Current state law allows those purchases to be made at the age of 18.

Moreno noted he is one of just three current lawmakers who was in the General Assembly in 2013, the year three gun control bills were passed by the legislature and which resulted in the recalls of two Democrats, including the Senate President.

That year was "contentious and intense. But maybe Colorado has changed in the decade since," Moreno said.

Emails indicate the bills are receiving pushback, he said.

Whether that will translate into a lengthy hearing and lots of witnesses against the bills on Wednesday is unknown.

From the other side, Fenberg noted hundreds of high school students came to the state Capitol last Friday to urge legislators to pass legislation they believe would prevent gun violence. They included students from East High, where a student died after he was shot while in a car outside the school.   

"I don't think the opposition has gone away but they're being well-matched by people who are demanding the legislature take action," Fenberg said. "When you look at the rhetoric from some of the organizations, they're no longer saying, 'We'll beat these bills.' Now, it's that they don't expect to do that, and pivoting to: 'We'll see you in court.'"

That, Fenberg said, will "not dissuade Democrats from doing what they need to, he said.

Fenberg also addressed House Bill 1230, the assault weapons ban introduced in the House last Friday. The bill is likely to face opposition from the governor as well as from Senate Democrats, including those who are leaders on the issue, such as Sen. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial.

Fenberg said there is a lot of "hesitation" on the bill within the Senate. It's not that people don't support the concept, but they don't feel it's the right policy at the right time, he said, adding it could also serve as a distraction and not the most effective way to save lives.

"These other bills have gone through a very strenuous process" and will continue to be amended as they move through the legislature, he said. People are thinking hard about what's the right policy, what's defensible and can be enforced, and what will be effective, he added. 

On the other hand, the discussion around the "assault weapons" ban bill has been more political, he said, and, as a result, people may not have as much confidence that it will be a policy that delivers the results it promises.

As to where that policy should reside, Fenberg said he agrees with the governor, who sponsored an assault weapons ban bill in 2018 when he was a member of Congress but who has since said the policy should come from the federal level, not the state.

Fenberg said the federal government should deal with all these gun proposals aimed at preventing gun violence, especially a ban on assault weapons, which the Democratic leader said makes a lot more sense at the federal level. The latter doesn't mean the states shouldn't do it, Fenberg said.

Nine states, in mostly Democratic-led states, have adopted "assault weapons" bans. 

The bills that will be heard in the Senate committee Wednesday are expected to be debated by the full Senate on Friday, with a final vote likely early next week. 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.