Our Attorney General Needs to Lead on Gun Safety

Our Attorney General Needs to Lead on Gun Safety

The murder of 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida using an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon was tragic—and avoidable.  From its shadow, teenagers are using their voices and rejecting complacency, insisting that we can do better. Last Saturday, March 24th, I was proud to join young people from across our state at the March for Our Lives to call for common sense measures on gun safety and to insist on protecting our classrooms from weapons of war.

Colorado’s Laws Are Under Attack

In 2013, after the Aurora and Sandy Hook massacres, Colorado took action on gun safety, limiting magazine capacity, requiring background checks for anyone wishing to purchase a gun, and closing the gun show loophole.  Today, our common sense laws are under attack, with the National Rifle Association (NRA) arguing that these protections violate the Second Amendment.   In 2018, we will either elect an Attorney General committed to defending our gun safety laws—or one who will follow the lead of the NRA.

Colorado’s gun safety laws provide important protections, but they are not perfect.  Future legislation should provide for a ban on bump stock devices (like the one used in October’s shooting in Las Vegas) and raise the minimum age for purchasing to 21.  In the wake of the recent shooting in Parkland, and the leadership of the students who demanded action at their State Capitol, Florida passed a law with both of these restrictions.  Colorado should follow this example.

Our Attorney General Should Fight for Gun Safety

A fundamental responsibility of our Attorney General is to keep Coloradans safe.  That means we need our Attorney General to defend, enforce, and build on our existing gun safety rules.  In Colorado, the requirement that those purchasing a weapon undergo a background check has kept weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them.  

It has, as Governor Hickenlooper put it, “stopped hundreds of people — convicted felons and others who can’t legally own guns — from purchasing them.”   More than 200 people who tried to buy guns had warrants out for their arrest—and were arrested attempting to buy a weapon. To ensure that our law is enforced effectively, I will work with our state’s dedicated law enforcement community to ensure that background checks are conducted on every firearm purchase in accordance with Colorado law.

We need to ban bump stock devices and fight for greater restrictions on access to military-grade weapons and devices that serve no legitimate purpose in civilian life. We also need to advocate at the national level because if weapons of war are available in neighboring states, our laws won’t be fully effective in addressing gun violence. And here in Colorado, we can implement other common sense reforms, such as adopting a “red flag” warning (also called a “gun violence restraining order”), allowing courts to require individuals who pose a credible danger to temporarily surrender their weapons.  In one study evaluating this approach, researchers estimated that a life was saved for every 10-20 such orders.

To push for a national solution, I will join forces with other Attorneys General to call on Congress to enact common-sense gun safety measures and support efforts by the relevant agencies to conduct research into gun violence to ensure effective prevention going forward.

Our Attorney General Should Develop Creative Partnerships to Protect Youth

Although the homicides tend to receive the most press attention, we also need to address the risk that guns will be used to commit suicide.  In 2016, 56 Coloradans younger than 19 years of age died from firearm injuries. The majority of those cases were suicides, with most of the guns taken from their parents. From 2006 to 2016, 449 youth in Colorado died because of gun deaths, with 56% of them classified as suicide, 36% as homicides, and 7% as “unintentional” or “undetermined” causes, (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fatal Injury Data).  

To protect youth from the risk of accidents and suicides, we need to work together—gun owners and non-gun owners—to recognize the risks of suicide and ensure the safe storage of guns.  This requires effective intervention programs, like Safe2Tell, that identify those who are the victims of bullying and at risk of behaving dangerously.  As Attorney General, I will develop new creative partnerships that sponsor educational programs focused on suicide prevention and sensible gun storage practices.  

Consider, for example, the national model “Safe Storage Saves Lives Campaign” developed by Washington State as part of its comprehensive gun violence prevention plan. As Colorado’s next Attorney General, and as part of my general commitment to innovative problem-solving, I will support such a program in Colorado.  This model emerged from a bipartisan effort in Washington State and its collaborative implementation underscores the promise of this approach.  Similarly, Colorado can learn from other innovative efforts to support pilot programs and experiments designed to address the complex problem of gun violence.

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The students in Parkland and those at the March for Our Lives last week have catalyzed a national discussion on gun safety that focuses on a single message:  We cannot give up hope and cannot be complacent.  I’ve heard the same message in my discussion with high school students here in Colorado.  I’m inspired by their courage and tenacity. I promise to never stop fighting alongside them and for them once I am Colorado’s next Attorney General.

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