NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KUNC is a member of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

Lawmakers prepare to roll out new gun laws after anniversary of King Soopers shooting

DSC07882 (2).JPG
Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage
Boulder police officers salute during a tribute to Eric Talley, an officer who was killed responding to the shooting at the Boulder King Soopers on March 22, 2021.

Loud calls for gun reform in Colorado immediately followed a gunman killing 10 people at a Boulder supermarket last year. Since then, lawmakers have delivered on some of those requests, including a measure to block gun sales to people convicted of violent misdemeanors.

But other new laws are still in the works a year after the shooting.

Boulder City Councilmember Rachel Friend said the city is getting ready to reinstate its ban on assault-style weapons. The rule was struck down by a judge just days before the shooting last year. In response, the state legislature passed a new law to let cities and towns pass their own gun regulations.

Friend said Boulder may go even further with restricting guns than it did before.

“So we're looking at open carry and ghost guns and waiting periods (for gun purchases) and carrying in sensitive areas such as museums and city buildings and places like that,” she said.

Friend said Boulder is also looking to work regionally. The city is in talks with other cities and towns along the Front Range to try and pass regulations at the same time.

Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage
Gov. Jared Polis and Boulder city officials paid tribute to the victims of the King Soopers attack at an event in downtown Boulder.

“There's a lot of holes if we're not acting regionally,” she said, citing reports that the alleged shooter at King Soopers purchased his weapon in Arvada.

Friend said it would be more ideal if the state and federal government passed tougher regulations, but Boulder will move ahead with its own rules.

Meanwhile, Colorado is busy rolling out another law it passed in response to the shooting. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is hiring workers to run the brand new Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

Chief Medical Officer Eric France has been working to get the new office up and running in recent weeks.

“My desire as a gun owner, hunter and public health specialist is to be sure we can talk to all people of Colorado to prevent gun violence,” he said last week.

France said the office is interviewing finalists for its first director. The office is also opening with about $3 million to spend on public education campaigns and other initiatives.

“We’ll provide some funds to communities where there have been a cycle of violence and help them think through, ‘What are the right evidence-informed interventions and what have we learned from those?’” he said.

France said another early priority for the office is to educate Colroadans about the state’s red flag law, which allows judges to temporarily take guns away from people who pose a risk to themselves or others.

Senate President Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, led the legislature's response to the shooting last year. He says the new office focusing on gun violence prevention will likely be the most impactful thing the state will do in response to the shooting.

This is a bill that is actually charged with on an ongoing level, thinking about gun violence as a public health concern,” he said.

And in a state where some lawmakers have been recalled for supporting gun control measures, Fenberg says he is starting to sense a shift toward embracing new restrictions. As proof, he points to the relative lack of debate over a bill he and other Democrats passed recently to ban guns at polling places.

I think people recognize that there are places where people should feel safe, and some people don't feel safe when they're exposed to (someone carrying) firearms,” he said.

Fenberg said a mental health spending package that is advancing this session will also help reduce gun violence.