DENVER – There are efforts in the state legislature and at the city level in Denver to ban bump stock devices like the one used to kill dozens in Las Vegas last year as federal law enforcement looks to Congress for an answer.
The Justice Department said in December it was reviewing the legality of bump stocks, which can be attached to semi-automatic rifles to make them effectively fire at a near-automatic rate. But the New York Times reported that DOJ officials believed any action on the devices should be left to Congress.
With inaction at the U.S. Capitol, some lawmakers in Colorado are trying to regulate the devices, though the prospects of the measures and their effects are being questioned by some.
The Denver City Council approved the first reading of the bill in the council Tuesday night after a public comment period in which eight people spoke in favor of the measure and only one spoke against it, though they asked for a stronger measure.
Denver already has an existing ban on so-called assault weapons, which include semi-automatic rifles with magazine capacities of 21+ rounds and semi-auto shotguns with either a folding stock or six-round magazine capacity.
The new language would change the magazine capacity to 15 rounds instead of 21+, putting city law in line with state law, and would also add language defining what a bump stock is.
Violating the assault weapons ordinance carries punishment of fines between $100 and $999 and between 10 and 180 days in jail.
The final vote on the proposal will come Monday, but it is expected to pass the full council.
In the state legislature, Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, has also introduced a bill that would include bump stocks in the state definition of a “dangerous weapon” and make possessing one a class 5 felony for the first offense, then a class 4 felony for each following offense.
If approved, Merrifield’s proposal would also apply the same class of penalties to people who sold bump stocks to another person in Colorado.
The measure is set for its first committee hearing on Feb. 12 in the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committee, which Republicans hold in a 3-2 majority. Even if it were to make it past the committee, Senate President Kevin Grantham told The Denver Post that the proposal wouldn’t “save a single soul” and infringed on people’s Second Amendment rights.
In both the U.S. House and Senate, the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act, which also bans bump stocks, has backing from 176 Democratic members of the House and 41 Democratic senators, but zero Republicans. There are other proposals in Congress as well.