Colorado Governor Signs Bills Strengthening Gun Laws

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Gov. Jared Polis signed three bills into law on Friday that tighten restrictions on gun purchases and possession, as well as a fourth that makes it easier for victims of gun violence to sue firearm companies.

The new laws will raise the age to buy any firearm to 21 from 18, and make it illegal to sell any gun to someone younger than 21; mandate a three-day waiting period between buying and receiving a gun; and expand the state’s red flag law.

Doctors, mental health professionals and teachers will now be allowed to petition judges to temporarily remove people’s firearms, if they pose a threat to themselves or others. Before, only law enforcement officers and family members were able to file such requests.

The fourth law makes it easier to sue gun manufacturers by eliminating the requirement that plaintiffs automatically pay the legal fees of gun-industry defendants when cases are dismissed. The law also will allow manufacturers to be sued under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, which applies to all other businesses in the state.

A fifth bill, which would have banned semiautomatic firearms, failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee.

Gov. Jared Polis signed the bills five months after an assailant killed five people and injured more than a dozen others in an L.G.B.T.Q. nightclub in Colorado Springs.Credit…Joanna Kulesza for The New York Times

Why It Matters: Colorado Is Defying a National Trend

Mr. Polis signed the bills five months after an assailant killed five people and injured more than a dozen others in an L.G.B.T.Q. nightclub in Colorado Springs. The shooting took place last November, less than two weeks after Mr. Polis, a Democrat, won re-election to a second term.

While states with Republican-led legislatures have been loosening restrictions on guns, Colorado — where Democrats control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office — is one of a few states bucking that trend. Maryland, which just finished its legislative session and is also controlled by Democrats, is another.

Colorado has been home to several high-profile mass shootings and has the 18th highest gun-death rate in the country. The state also has one of the highest gun suicide rates in the country, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There are shootings everyday in Colorado that don’t make the news; the majority of that is suicides,” said Lisa Geller, state affairs director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.

Background: The State Has a History of Mass Shootings

The law that granted the extra protections for gun and ammunition manufacturers and sellers against lawsuits from victims was passed in 2000, the year after the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., outside Denver.

Mass killings at a movie theater in Aurora in 2012, at a supermarket in Boulder in 2021 and the recent attack in Colorado Springs have put the state in the spotlight for the country’s gun carnage.

What’s Next: Pro-Gun Groups Are Already Challenging the Laws

The expansion of the red flag law is effective immediately. The rest of the laws could be put into effect by later this year, though they are already being challenged.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a gun-rights advocacy group in Colorado, has filed lawsuits over the three-day waiting period and minimum age requirement. The group said that people needing to defend themselves might not be able to get a gun in time to do so.

Another bill that would ban the production and sale of ghost guns is still in front of legislators and is likely to pass during this term, which ends next week.

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