Boulder’s City Council unanimously passed a ban on assault weapons, even as it faced down a threat of legal action during Tuesday night’s meeting.
Attorneys from Mountain States Legal Foundation, speaking during the open comment section preceding the vote, vowed to challenge the ban in court on behalf of an unnamed client, alleging “violations of the Second, Fifth and 14th Amendments, (and) the Colorado Constitution.”
Cody Wisniewski, a staff attorney for the foundation, said individual council members would be named in the suit as well.
The ordinance prohibits the sale and possession of assault weapons, as defined by the city. Also outlawed are high-capacity magazines and bump stocks.
Owners of the latter two items will have until July 15 to dispose of or sell them. Assault weapons will be grandfathered in; those in possession of such firearms have until the end of the year to receive a certificate proving prior ownership.
The grandfather clause was an olive branch to gun owners, said Councilman Sam Weaver, as was the abandonment of an early proposal to establish a registration system for assault weapons in the city.
Each council member gave passionate comments ahead of the vote. Mirabai Nagle spoke first, tempering her eventual support with concerns over the issue’s divisiveness and laments that further compromise was not reached.
“I don’t agree with this ordinance in many ways,” Nagle said. “It’s not perfect; I think we’re going to spend a lot of time and money.”
The ban will likely continue to undergo evolution. Changes, proposed by council member Bob Yates, will be addressed via an additional ordinance amending the original.
One potential tweak would be allowing the city’s gun stores to issue certificates to current firearms owners. As passed, the measure gives that power to Boulder police. Council members were split on whether or not to allow stores to have such power, with Jill Adler Grano most vocally opposed.
It was Grano who first suggested a ban in February, following a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Numerous communities across the country, including Denver and Vail, have withstood legal challenges.
The enforceability of such measures has been questioned, with city attorneys and law enforcement officials acknowledging its limits. Council members lauded the effort as one that affirmed Boulder’s values and took some action, albeit a tiny one, toward ending gun violence.
“My hope is that we will see more bans at the state level and one day at the federal level so these weapons will no longer be available,” said Councilman Aaron Brockett.