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September 28, 2023

JOINT RELEASE: Gun Violence Prevention Laws Go Into Effect

DENVER, CO – Two laws to prevent gun violence and save lives go into effect on October 1. HB23-1219 establishes a minimum three day waiting period to purchase a firearm, and SB23-168 creates new avenues for victims of gun violence to pursue justice. 

“We know waiting periods are a successful tool proven to prevent suicide and firearm deaths,” said Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Englewood, sponsor of HB23-1219. “Establishing a three day waiting period creates breathing room and time to intervene before an act of violence is committed. Widely supported by gun owners, waiting periods can help us address gun violence and create safer Colorado communities.” 

“Previously, if you wanted to get your hands on a gun, you could do so with near immediacy,” said Senator Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, sponsor of HB23-1219. “Whether you intend to harm yourself or others, waiting periods on firearm purchases delay immediate access to weapons and cut down on impulsive acts of violence. I’m proud to champion this new law that will save lives and create safer communities for all Coloradans.”

“I have experienced firsthand how a ‘cooling off’ period can save someone's life when they are in crisis and trying to purchase a firearm,” said Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, sponsor of HB23-1219. “My son is still with us today because his background check was delayed when he went to a local gun store, and I am forever grateful he did not have instant access to a firearm that day. This new law will help save lives from senseless and preventable gun violence and improve public safety by preventing someone in crisis from immediately acquiring a deadly weapon.”

“A cooling off period could be the difference between life and death for a person in the midst of a mental health crisis,” Senator Chris Hansen, D-Denver, sponsor of HB23-1219 said. “This legislation is backed by research and will reduce gun deaths by suicide and homicide. I’m incredibly proud of Colorado’s leadership on this issue and am proud to take this meaningful step to reduce the epidemic of gun violence.”

Research shows that creating a waiting period for purchasing a firearm has led to a 7 to 11 percent reduction in suicides by firearm and a 17 percent reduction in firearm-related homicides. In 2020, Colorado had the seventh highest suicide rate in the US, and in 2021, there were 740 suicides by firearm in Colorado, accounting for more than half of all suicides in the state. From 2014 to 2019, the number of firearm deaths in Colorado was greater than deaths from motor vehicle crashes and opioid overdoses. Among firearm deaths, more than 75 percent were caused by intentional self-harm or suicide.

Current law mandates that a background check is complete before a firearm can be transferred, which often takes less than three days. HB23-1219 requires a gun seller to wait for an approved background check or three days from the initiation of the background check, whichever is later, before delivering a gun to the purchaser. Creating a waiting period delays immediate access to firearms and can help prevent impulsive acts of violence, including suicides, homicides and assaults. Mandatory waiting periods are supported by 72 percent of gun owners.

The law does not apply to antique firearms. It also exempts the transfer of a firearm between an active duty military service member, who is set to deploy overseas, and their family. 

“With this law, we are ending the excessive legal protections enjoyed by the firearm industry and ensuring they can be held accountable when their actions cause harm to others,” said Rep. Jennifer Parenti, D-Erie, sponsor of SB23-168. “This law re-establishes pathways for victims of gun violence, and their families, to seek justice through the courts. It ensures the firearm industry can be held to the same standard as any other business that operates in our state and hopefully encourage them to be stronger partners in our efforts to reduce gun violence in our communities and create safer neighborhoods for everyone."

“Colorado used to be home to one of the most punitive laws against gun violence survivors in the country, laws that shielded them from accountability and needed to be changed,” said Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, sponsor of SB23-168. “This new law will level the playing field by removing those extra protections and allowing legitimate lawsuits to move forward, ensuring the gun industry is no longer given special treatment and improving gun violence survivors’ ability to seek the justice they deserve.”

“Previously, Colorado gun sellers and manufacturers were provided legal protections far beyond those for most other businesses in the state and that prevented victims of gun violence from seeking justice,” Senator Chris Kolker, D-Centennial, sponsor of SB23-168 said. “Removing Colorado’s overly broad gun industry immunity law will provide another avenue for survivors to pursue justice if they are harmed by irresponsible business practices.”

“When it comes to seeking justice through the courts, victims of gun violence in Colorado have faced an uphill battle,” said Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver, sponsor of SB23-168. “Prior to this law, the firearm industry had extreme and unjust legal protections that prevented families and victims from seeking accountability. Through this legislation, we’re removing these completely unwarranted legal protections and creating a new avenue for victims to seek the justice they deserve.”

Prior to SB23-168, firearm industry members enjoyed broad protections under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act from most types of civil lawsuits. Colorado law goes even further by including a punitive provision that forces victims of gun violence who sue the firearm industry to pay the company’s legal fees in dismissed cases. SB23-168 removes Colorado’s overly-broad immunity protections for firearm industry members and allows legitimate lawsuits against the firearm industry to move forward.

After their daughter was killed in the Aurora movie theater shooting, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips sued four online retailers that irresponsibly sold magazines, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and body armor to the murderer. Under Colorado’s immunity law, they were forced to pay around $200,000 in legal fees to bulk ammunition sellers. As a result, they ended up selling their house and declared bankruptcy. SB23-168 is named the “Jessi Redfield Ghawi’s Act for Gun Violence Victims’ Access to Justice and Firearms Industry Accountability” in honor of Sandy and Lonnie Phillips’ daughter.

Removing Colorado’s firearm industry shielded liability will allow survivors, like the Phillips and countless others, to seek appropriate justice via civil actions and will give survivors the legal opportunity to hold firearm industry members accountable for their actions.

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