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Would Colorado’s firearm preemption law stop Boulder’s assault weapons ban?

Colorado's complicated Constitution makes finalizing assault weapons ban in Boulder harder than it looks. And both gun control and gun rights advocates think they might use that to their advantage.

DENVER — After a story on Thursday night about Boulder’s potential assault weapons ban, many Next viewers e-mailed wondering if the proposal would violate a state law that passed in 2003.

Specifically, C.R.S. 29-11.7-103:

A local government may not enact an ordinance, regulation, or other law that prohibits the sale, purchase, or possession of a firearm that a person may lawfully sell, purchase, or possess under state or federal law. Any such ordinance, regulation, or other law enacted by a local government prior to March 18, 2003, is void and unenforceable.

That law, championed by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, was intended to prevent cities from creating blanket restrictions on firearm laws.

“What it means is a city can’t just go out and create its own laws,” said Dudley Brown, who founded Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. “It explicitly spells out that cities cannot do this.”

Boulder’s city attorney, who drafted the ordinance, told city council Thursday, that the state constitution’s provision for home rule municipalities would allow Boulder to create this ban.

“In Colorado, Article 20, section 6 of the Colorado State’s Constitution says that local home rule cities have the ability to supersede state law on areas of local and municipal concern,” City Attorney Tom Carr told council.

He also pointed to a court case immediately after the Denver law passed.

“Denver sued the state asserting that it had the right as a home rule city to take a series of firearm restrictions, one of which was an assault weapons ban and the district court in that case said yes, it was a matter of local concern,” Carr told council.

Brown disagrees.

“The home rule exemption doesn’t apply to everything and it certainly doesn’t apply to a fundamental right,” he said.

He also said RMGO is considering a lawsuit if Boulder’s proposal passes city council.

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But Brown conceded if Boulder’s ban is allowed under the home rule provision, more gun friendly towns could potentially start to loosen firearms restrictions in their city.

“I did get a call from an unnamed city official who is considering running a bill or ordinance in their city to say that because they are a home rule city they don’t need to fall under the magazine ban that the state has enacted for the state of Colorado and therefore 30 round magazines would be legal,” Brown said.

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