POLITICS

Judge Blocked Boulder's Assault Weapons Ban Just Days Before Deadly Shooting

“This [shooting] is directly on the heels of the trial court staying the assault weapons ban our city had enacted,” Boulder City Councilor Rachel Friend said.

A Colorado judge blocked Boulder, Colorado, from enforcing a ban on assault-style weapons just 10 days before a man opened fire in a supermarket there, killing 10, including a police officer.

According to the arrest affidavit, Monday’s shooting was carried out with a Ruger AR-556, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that would have been prohibited under the two-year-old ban, which the city of Boulder passed after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“This [shooting] is directly on the heels of the trial court staying the assault weapons ban our city had enacted,” Boulder City Councilor Rachel Friend tweeted after the shooting Monday. “I am [nauseous] and heartsick and angry and mostly so, so sad.”

With some exceptions, the 2018 ordinance largely banned the possession of assault weapons within city limits, describing them as “semi-automatic firearms designed with military features to allow rapid spray firing for the quick and efficient killing of humans.”

The ordinance also banned ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds and prohibited the sale of firearms to anyone under the age of 21.

It’s unclear how old the suspect in Monday’s shooting was when he obtained the weapon earlier this month, or where he purchased it; he is currently 21 years old.

“I hope and pray we never have a mass shooting in Boulder,” Tom Carr, Boulder’s city attorney who drafted the ordinance, told the Daily Camera in 2018, “and what this ordinance is about is reducing, on the margins, the ease with which somebody could do that.”

“If you look at most of the mass shootings, the guns were purchased legally. I see this as an ordinance that throws in one more barrier to someone who’s contemplating such a horrible act.”

The ordinance was overturned as a result of an NRA-backed lawsuit filed by the Colorado State Shooting Association. In a statement Monday, CSSA rejected the arguments made by Friend and others as “emotional sensationalism.”

“There will be a time for the debate on gun laws,” CSSA said. “There will be a time for the discussion on motives. There will be a time for a conversation on how this could have been prevented. But today is not the time. Today is the time for grieving and healing.”

On March 16, the same day the suspect purchased his AR-15, the NRA rushed to proclaim victory over the law that could have very well halted its sale. Less than a week before yesterday’s shooting, the NRA hailed Boulder’s forced stay as “something to celebrate:”

Colorado prohibits cities and counties from regulating guns in a manner that would conflict with existing federal and state law.

In 2006, the Colorado Supreme Court allowed a similar assault weapons ban in nearby Denver to stand. Unlike Boulder, Denver’s ban predated the state law.

The margin of victory was impossibly small: One justice recused herself for having been involved in the case prior to her appointment. The remaining six justices deadlocked 3-3, preventing the ban from being overturned.