After supermarket shooting, Colorado is letting cities pass their own gun laws – and Boulder plans to enforce its assault weapons ban

Boulder shooting
The memorial at the King Soopers on Table Mesa in Boulder, United States on March 24, 2021. Rachel Woolf for The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • After a supermarket shooting, Colorado repealed a law banning cities from passing local gun laws.
  • Boulder now hopes to enforce its 2018 assault weapons ban that a judge had previously struck down.
  • Most cities in the US are not able to pass local gun laws due to state laws banning the practice.
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Months after ten people were killed in a mass shooting at a Boulder, Colorado supermarket, the state’s government took swift action.

Legislators have passed six gun laws since the shooting in March, with Gov. Jared Polis signing three of them into law Saturday. The recently adopted laws expand background checks for gun purchases and create an office of gun violence prevention.

The third gives local jurisdictions control over gun rights by repealing an existing ban that prevented cities from passing their own gun laws and has renewed interest in Boulder for an assault weapons ban. Almost all states have similar laws, known as preemption laws, that prevent local gun laws, according to the National Rifle Association.

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Despite the former ban, Boulder had enacted its own local ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in 2018, though it had not yet been enforced. On March 12, a judge ruled the ban violated Colorado state law, citing the preemption law, and struck it down.

Just 10 days later, a gunman killed 10 people at a supermarket in the city using an AR-556, an AR-15-style semi-automatic pistol, that he had purchased days prior. The gun would have been covered by the ban, according to The Denver Post, because it included guns that can use external magazines. He purchased the gun in another city, though Boulder’s ban would have made it illegal for him to carry it in the city.

Boulder is again looking at the ban now that the new state bill allows for cities to set their own gun laws. Mayor Sam Weaver told The Wall Street Journal he believes the new bill will negate the legal challenges to the assault weapons ban, effectively putting it into effect. He also said the city will do what it takes to make the ban enforceable.

“In theory, if we didn’t have this law, you could go buy an assault weapon, and then walk across the street and shoot a bunch of students,” Weaver told The Journal. “So we would like to have it in place to prevent rash actions with assault weapons in Boulder.”

The preemption laws gained traction in the 1980s after Democrat-led cities passed gun laws in states controlled by lawmakers who were more conservative, The Journal reported. The NRA and other gun-rights advocates have strongly supported pre-emption laws.

Polis signed two additional gun bills into law earlier this year following the supermarket shooting, including regulations for gun storage and requirements for reporting stolen or missing firearms. Another bill that passed and awaits the governor’s signature seeks to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

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