DENVER – For the third day in a row, state lawmakers in the Colorado House of Representatives met to continue a marathon debate over a package of gun control bills.
During a rare Sunday session, legislators gave final approval to a proposal that will expand the state’s red flag law.
They also moved closer toward a final vote on a bill to remove legal protections from gun manufacturers.
The day started with House Republicans airing their grievances with the Democratic majority for invoking a legislative rule, ending debate on a pair of gun control bills, and cutting off Republican efforts to delay a final vote.
“You’re still going to get your bills. You’re still going to get every single thing done that you want done because you’re the supermajority,” said State Scott Bottoms, R-District 15. “All you had to do was listen.”
House Minority Leader State Rep. Mike Lynch accused Democrats of “tyranny.”
“This is a historic and appalling move by the majority to silence the voice of the minority,” said Lynch. “The legislature is the place for an honest and lengthy debate, and this drastic step removes that ability for the minority to represent their constituents effectively. Today will be looked back upon as a dark day for the democratic process in Colorado. It is not enough to have the votes to pass legislation already; now, the tyranny of the majority is complete.”
Colorado House Democrats responded, saying enough was enough.
“Coloradans are demanding action, not delay tactics. An overwhelming majority of Colorado voters elected us to govern responsibly because we made clear commitments to prevent gun violence, make housing more affordable, protect access to abortion and reproductive care, invest in our students, and mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change - and we must deliver,” House Speaker Julie McCluskie and Majority Leader Monica Duran said in a joint statement. “We take seriously the importance of our democratic process and of authentically engaging with the minority party on bills. At the end of the day, the smallest minority in 60 years does not have the right to stop votes on legislation that the vast majority of Coloradans desperately want to see passed. The rules of the institution exist to respect the will of the voters. To allow unprecedented obstruction at this scale from a small group of minority party members puts our democracy at risk, and we will not allow that. Too much is at stake.”
On Sunday, lawmakers held a final vote on a bill to give district attorneys, doctors and teachers the right to petition courts to have someone’s guns taken away from them if they believe that person poses a danger to themselves or others.
The bill must now go back to the Senate so they can review changes House lawmakers made.
They also moved toward final approval of a bill that removes legal protections from gun manufacturers, making it easier for victims of violence to sue them.
Lawmakers were also scheduled to start a debate on a bill to raise the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.
Duran is one of the bill’s primary sponsors and said for her, it’s personal.
Duran is a domestic violence survivor and said when she was married in her teens, guns were used to control and intimidate her.
“When everything else didn't work, then it was always that threat of, ‘I have this weapon, I have this gun,’” said Duran. “And that impacts you for the rest of your life. It stays with you. And for me, that's why this was important. Because I know the scars from what I went through as a young adult, at 19 years old.”
Supporters of the bill hope raising the age to buy a gun will also help reduce crime and suicides among young people.
“Twenty-one seems like the age to be able to make that decision and to be responsible enough,” said Duran.
State Rep. Ty Winter, R-District 47, said 18-year-olds are old enough to decide for themselves.
“When it comes to many different pieces of legislation, they say a 12-year-old is knowledgeable enough to make decisions when it comes to mental health and medical decisions,” said Winter. “But on the other hand, we say that at 18 years old, they're not mentally capable enough to make the decision of owning a firearm.”
Opponents of the bill also say it won’t reduce violence and will instead put people’s ability to protect themselves at risk.
“At the end of the day, what we have to realize is the reason that we have the Second Amendment is to defend your life. It's an issue of defending your life,” said Winter.