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House Democrats push through multi-day Republican filibuster to pass gun control laws

This shows a birds eye view of the Colorado State Capitol house floor with lawmakers seated at their desks and facing the front of the chambers.
Lucas Brady Woods
Lawmakers debate a gun-control bill on the House floor on Monday, March 27, 2023. Democrat-gun control bills are making progress at the State Capitol despite Republican opposition.

Gun reform legislation is slowly advancing at the Colorado State Capitol despite outspoken—and sometimes contentious—Republican opposition. GOP delay tactics last week led to an unusual weekend meeting of the state House of Representatives and prompted Democratic leadership to invoke a rarely-used rule to limit debate.

The meeting came after GOP filibusters over gun reform delayed the House’s course of business last week. In response to Republican delay tactics, Democrats invoked a little-used legislative provision, called Rule 14, during the weekend meeting for the first time in at least a decade. By doing so, they limited debate to an hour on each of the gun control bills. The chamber met all day Saturday and Sunday, which allowed them to pass two out of the three gun control bills under consideration.

The House passed two gun control bills over the weekend. One of them would expand Colorado’s red flag laws, also called Extreme Risk Protection Orders or ERPO laws, by allowing teachers, doctors and mental health professionals to petition for the removal of someone's guns if they pose a threat to themselves or others. The other would make it easier for victims of gun violence to sue gun stores and manufacturers.

On Monday, the House also passed a bill that would raise the minimum purchasing age for firearms to 21 with exceptions for military members, police officers, hunters and competition shooters.

The Senate is debating anotherbill that would impose a three-day waiting period on gun-purchases. A bill that would ban assault weapons is scheduled for a committee hearing on Wednesday.

The weekend meeting and debate over gun bills follow a shooting at Denver's East High School last week in which a student shot and wounded two adult staff members and took his own life. Another student died earlier this month after suffering a gunshot wound outside the school in February. The shootings prompted outraged students to march on the State Capitol on multiple occasions recently to demand action from lawmakers around gun violence.

Republicans oppose all of the gun bills currently on the table. As the minority party, however, they do not have the numbers to stop the bills from moving forward. Instead, they are using delay tactics like staging filibusters and reading bills in their entirety to disrupt proceedings as much as possible.

They say they will not budge on their stances around guns and gun regulation, which center on a belief that Democrat-backed gun bills infringe on Coloradans' Second Amendment right to bear arms.

"Our approach of trying to keep government out of people's daily life is never going to change," Republican House Minority Leader Mike Lynch said earlier this month, adding that his caucus will "continue to put the Constitution first."

House Majority Leader Duran, who is in charge of the chamber’s legislative schedule, said Democrats will continue to invoke the rule as needed to make sure they are able to complete their agenda, especially since Coloradans voted Democrats into the majority with a mandate to address gun reform as a top priority.

“We want everyone and everyone's voice to be heard,” Democratic House Majority Leader Monica Duran said. “They're speaking to their districts. They want to get their voice out there. But we also have work to get done—and in a limited amount of time—so whatever it's going to take for us to get that work done to make sure we get that legislation passed that our districts have asked us to do, we're going to do.”

Republicans called Rule 14 a “nuclear option” and said it’s hampering the democratic process. They say it will hurt their ability to represent their constituents effectively.

“We have the filibuster going in order to drive those collaborative policy discussions, to find the common sense solutions and the meeting-in-the-middle that our constituents want us to do,” Republican Rep. Gabe Evans said. “That’s the reason we’ve been doing this all weekend long, is to make sure we represent our constituents and that their side actually sits down and listens to us.”

Originally from Southern California, Lucas spent the last decade living in New York City, which is where he started his journalism career. He's been an NPR junkie for as long as he can remember, but really fell in love with reporting radio news at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he received his master's degree. He's reported on a variety of issues, including covering healthcare at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.
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