DENVER (KDVR) — Not one, not two but three gun measures were in committee on Wednesday. Although the bills are moving through the Capitol, several are already facing questions about their legality.
Families of gun violence victims came out in handfuls Wednesday to testify on bills in committee, calling on lawmakers to do something. Some experts on constitutional rights say the bills may face a tough time outside the Capitol.
Gun proposals face question of constitutionality
Colorado families with connections to shooting tragedies like Columbine, King Soopers and Club Q showed up to testify on three bills aimed to prevent gun violence. One would expand the red flag law to allow teachers, mental health experts, doctors and district attorneys to petition to have someone’s firearm removed.
“This is not going to solve all the crime by firearm for sure, but it gives us another tool. The police department in Denver uses this tool already successfully, and we would enjoy having that ability ourselves,” Beth McCann, Denver district attorney, said of SB23-170.
That bill passed committee 3-2, but other measures at the Capitol have experts questioning if they would violate the Constitution should they become law. This includes one measure that would require Coloradans to be 21 rather than 18 to buy any kind of gun. Under current law, 18-year-olds can currently buy rifles.
Young people ages 18-20 “have always had the right to bear arms and to keep arms in Colorado and elsewhere. In fact, by our Colorado Constitution, 18-20-year-old males are part of our Colorado militia, so they are expected to have their own arms to help the community if necessary,” said David Kopel, a researcher and professor on constitutional law.
He testified in opposition to the three-day waiting period measure that passed out of committee on Monday, the measure to increase the gun purchasing age and the measure giving victims more pathways to sue gun manufacturers. All raised concerns for him that they may not be constitutional.
Supreme Court has ruled on 2nd Amendment
“The bill would allow for lawsuits against firearm stores or manufacturers that comply with all the firearms laws, and the bill would single out firearms businesses for, uniquely, special liability by eliminating the normal common law rule of proximate cause,” Kopel said. “One thing the Supreme Court did was reiterate, which it has said repeatedly, is the Second Amendment is not a second-class right to be singled out for special abuse, and the lawsuit bill does single out the Second Amendment for special abuse because it makes a firearms manufacturer in Massachusetts, who complies with all the laws, liable to a crime committed in Colorado.”
A bill that was not in committee on Wednesday but still faces questions over constitutionality is the newly introduced proposal to ban so-called “assault weapons.”
Experts say that measure will likely see challenges in court too if it were to pass this session.