Ten days before a gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket, a judge blocked the city from enforcing a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines — likely setting up a renewed gun control debate in the state.
Boulder County District Judge Andrew Hartman ruled on March 12 that the city could not enforce its 2018 ordinance banning possession, transfer or sale of assault weapons and large-capacity magazine since state law says local governments can’t block the possession or sale of firearms, the Denver Post reported.
“These provisions are invalid, and enforcement of them is enjoined,” Hartman wrote. “The court has determined that only Colorado state (or federal) law can prohibit the sale and transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.”
In 2018, Boulder’s City Council passed the two ordinances following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead in Parkland, Florida.
City attorneys said earlier this month they planned to meet with outside counsel to discuss whether to appeal the decision, city spokeswoman Shannon Aulabaugh told the newspaper, adding that Boulder police would not enforce the ordinance unless a new ruling impacted Hartman’s decree.
Two Boulder residents, the Colorado State Shooting Association and a gun shop sued the city a month after the ordinances passed, claiming they violated state law that says gun regulation is up to state and federal authorities instead of local officials.
Attorneys for Boulder, meanwhile, insisted the city had the legal right to pass the ordinances because of its home-rule provisions and a lack of a state-level ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.
But Hartman disagreed, saying Boulder’s ban could create a “ripple effect” across the state, potentially setting up a “de facto ban” of assault weapons in Colorado.
Police in Boulder as of early Tuesday had not identified the suspect in Monday’s mass shooting at a King Soopers store that left 10 people dead, including a police officer, or details about the weapon he used, but authorities said the gunman was reported to have been carrying a rifle, the Denver Post reported.
Some anti-gun violence advocates noted the “appalling” timing of Hartman’s decision.
“We tried to protect our city,” Dawn Reinfeld, co-founder of the Colorado gun violence prevention group Blue Rising, told the Washington Post. “It’s so tragic to see the legislation struck down, and days later, to have our city experience exactly what we were trying to prevent.”
The Colorado State Shooting Association, which sued over the assault weapons ban, rejected that characterization, saying “emotional sensationalism” over gun laws would mar remembrance of Monday’s victims.
“There will be a time for the debate on gun laws,” the group said in a statement. “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 that time.”