7 things to know about Denver's assault weapons ban

Posted at 7:10 PM, Feb 21, 2018

DENVER— The talk of tighter gun laws are on the minds of many lawmakers in the wake of the Florida shooting, including city leaders in Boulder. 

The city is considering a ban on so-called assault weapons. It would be modeled after Denver's ban, which has been on the books since 1989.

Here are the seven things to know about the state's only assault weapons ban:

1. What does it ban?
The 1989 city ordinance bans the use of all semiautomatic action, centerfire rifles with a detachable magazine with a capacity of more than fifteen rounds. Bump stocks are also prohibited.

2. What is excluded?
Several types of weapons are excluded from the ban and they include weapons that do not use fixed cartridges, weapons that were in production prior to 1898, manually operated bolt-action weapons, lever-action weapons, slide-action weapons, single-shot weapons, multiple-barrel weapons, revolving-cylinder weapons, semiautomatic weapons for which there is no fixed magazine with capacity of more than fifteen (15) rounds available, semiautomatic weapons that use exclusively en bloc clips, all semiautomatic weapons in production prior to 1954 and all rimfire weapons that employ a tubular magazine.

3. Who is exempt?
The ordinance does not apply to everyone, like federal, state or local law enforcement agents. Non-residents who are found to be in possession of a legally-obtained assault weapon can’t be charged either. Other people exempt from the ban include those who had legally purchased weapons prior to ordinance going into effect.

4. What are the penalties?
Anyone caught in violation of the assault weapon ban could face a fine of up to $999 and 180 days in jail. The weapon will also be confiscated and destroyed. 

5. Why it was introduced
The 1989 city measure banning assault weapons was prompted by an escalation of gang violence in the city and several high-profile mass shootings across the nation.

6. Challenged in court
The city ordinance has survived multiple legal challenges over the years. In 1994, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Denver’s weapon ban was Constitutional. And in 2003, it survived a second challenge when a new state law wiped out all local gun laws. However, the state’s highest court ruled again in Denver’s favor. 

7. Has it been effective?
It’s not clear if the 1989 ordinance accomplished what city leaders had intended the law to do. Very little, if any, data exists to determine one way or another. Despite this, the law is still on the books.