By Jesse Bedayn, The Associated Press/Report for America
Two new Colorado gun control laws went into effect Sunday, one imposing a three-day waiting period on all firearm purchases — meant to curtail suicide attempts and shootings — and another making it easier for gun violence victims to file lawsuits against the gun industry.
The laws, pushed through Colorado’s Democrat-controlled legislature this year, come as violent crime and mass shootings surge nationwide — including last year’s bloodshed at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, where a gunman killed five people and wounded 17 others.
The new laws edge the once-purple Colorado nearer the Democratic bastions of California and New York. But gun groups have vowed to challenge the restrictions in court, encouraged by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expanded gun rights last year.
The Colorado laws were spurred by waves of protests over gun violence this year. Students flooded the Colorado Capitol’s halls in March after a high school student was shot and killed just outside their campus. Later that month, teachers marched into the House and Senate chambers after a student shot and wounded two school administrators in Denver.
The state now joins at least 10 others by enacting a waiting period.
Democratic state Rep. Judy Amabile, one of the bill’s sponsors, said she’s experienced first hand the benefits of a buffer between buying and receiving a gun. Her son had sought a firearm she believed he was planning to use on himself, but his background check had been delayed.
“I am forever grateful he did not have instant access to a firearm that day,” she said in a news release.
Taylor Rhodes, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said that when the waiting period takes effect on Sunday, he will file a lawsuit.
“We aren’t talking about things that are privileges, we are talking about constitutionally guarantied freedoms,” said Rhodes. He added that if someone needs to protect themselves from a stalker, for example, waiting three days might not cut it.
A second law in Colorado would roll back some long-held legal protections for gun manufacturers and dealers, partly by making the industry more accountable to consumer protection laws.
Similar to legislation passed in California, New York, Delaware and New Jersey, Colorado’s new law would make it easier for victims of gun violence to file civil suits partly around how companies market their products — such as one lodged against Remington in 2015.
Remington made the rifle used in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut, and families of those killed accused the company in a lawsuit of targeting younger, at-risk males in advertising and product placement in violent video games. Last year, the company settled with the families for $73 million.
“Removing Colorado’s overly broad gun industry immunity law will provide another avenue for survivors to pursue justice,” said Democratic Sen. Chris Kolker, one of the bill’s sponsors, in a statement.
Kolker, along with the other bill sponsors, named the act after Jessica Ghawi, who was slain in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, along with 11 others.
Ghawi’s parents, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, tried to sue the companies that had sold the shooter ammunition and tear gas but were unsuccessful. Ultimately, the couple ended up owing more than $200,000 in defense attorney fees and had to file for bankruptcy.
Opponents of the law worry that it would open up dealerships and manufacturers to frivolous lawsuits, driving especially the smaller shops out of business.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun advocacy group which has filed lawsuits against similar laws in other states, including California, is expected to take legal action in Colorado.
Mark Oliva, managing director of the foundation, has told The Associated Press Colorado’s law would be “ripe” for a legal challenge.
Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.