Colorado Dems push sweeping gun control laws that are flying under national radar: ‘Public is fed up’

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Colorado Democrats are pushing a series of gun control bills that mirror policies in liberal states such as California but have overwhelmingly flown under the radar in the media, Second Amendment experts say. 

“This should be making national news as it doesn’t just impact Colorado, but the nation as a whole,” Ava Flanell, a firearms instructor in Colorado Springs, told Fox News Digital. “Lawmakers are using these outrageous bills as blueprints, changing the state names and implementing them across the country at a state level because they don’t have the votes to do it nationally. 

“Last year, it was Washington where they all passed, and the laws are decimating gun stores without a single positive impact on crime. Today, it’s Colorado. These same bills will show up in other states tomorrow if we don’t come together as a whole to fight this.”

State Democrats are pushing a gun control blitz this year, including a bill that would ban so-called “assault weapons,” which is typically understood as a semi-automatic rifle, like an AR-15; enact an 11% tax on gun and ammunition sales; and increase standards for concealed handgun training classes. Another bill would prohibit gun owners from carrying in “sensitive” areas, such as parks, banks and college campuses. 

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Ava Flanell, owner and founder of Elite Firearms & Training in Colorado Springs.  (Ava Flanell )

The bills are under consideration by lawmakers in the state’s General Assembly, where the Democratic Party controls both chambers. The state’s governor, Jared Polis, is also a Democrat, meaning the party has a Democratic trifecta in the Centennial State. 

jared polis speaking

Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently commented on the “proud” legacy of the Gadsden flag after a young student in his state was kicked out of class for wearing one on his backpack. (Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

The state’s House Judiciary Committee in March advanced a bill that would ban “assault weapons,” sending the bill to the full House, where it’s anticipated to receive support from the Democratic majority. 

Out of the legislation introduced this year, Flanell took issue with the state’s move to ban types of semi-automatic firearms. 

“The so-called ‘assault weapons’ ban bill is the most concerning, but they all have tragic consequences for law-abiding citizens. The ‘assault weapons’ bill is incredibly deceptive. They want to ban not only every kind of ‘scary’ gun like ARs and AKs, but also 80-90% of semi-automatic firearms popular today, including handguns and shotguns,” Flanell said. 

She said the language in the bill is broad and would ban not only the guns, but also firearm features such as “a foregrip, adjustable stock, pistol grip, barrel shroud.”

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“The bill sponsors claim these features increase lethality, when, in fact, they don’t. They’re merely cosmetic. A muzzle brake, which could be interpreted as a compensator, is another characteristic lawmakers have decided to make a firearm ‘more lethal.’ Muzzle brakes are one of the most popular features to tame recoil and are growing in popularity among female shooters, those who lack upper body strength or have physical limitations.” 

Antonia Okafor, the founder and president of a nonprofit firearm education group called EMPOWERED, told Fox News Digital Colorado’s moves to ban guns such as AR-15s would leave women especially vulnerable to crime. 

“After seven years of training women, it is abundantly clear that women prefer an AR-15 for the defense of their home, their family and themselves,” Okafor, a sexual assault survivor, told Fox News Digital. 

“Despite the anti-gun rhetoric pushed by the media and gun control organizations, the AR-15 allows women to have a larger firearm without having to physically absorb as much recoil as a smaller, handheld firearm. The AR-15 makes it easier for those who have a physical disadvantage to have an upper hand against an attacker and creates a larger perimeter of protection. Simply put, a firearm levels the playing field.” 

The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic state representatives Elisabeth Epps and Tim Hernandez, both from Denver, defines an “assault weapon” as a “semiautomatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine, or that may be readily modified to accept a detachable magazine, and has one or more of the following characteristics,” including features such as a pistol grip or thumbhole stock and “any feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand.

Rifles on display

AR-15 style rifles are displayed for sale at a gun store. (REUTERS/Bing Guan)

“The bill defines the term ‘assault weapon’ and prohibits a person from manufacturing, importing, purchasing, selling, offering to sell, or transferring ownership of an assault weapon,” the bill’s summary states. “The bill further prohibits a person from possessing a rapid-fire trigger activator. A person in violation of the prohibitions will be assessed a first-time penalty of $250,000 and $500,000 for each subsequent violation.”

Hernandez said the bill becoming law would protect the community from mass shootings.

“The vast majority of Americans and over 80% of Democrats support an assault weapons ban and are fed up with weapons of war in our communities,” Hernandez said after the bill passed through committee. “My entire childhood, I was afraid to die in school because adults wouldn’t be bold enough on guns, and those fears only grew when I became a teacher and I saw my students struggle with those same anxieties. We must take action to protect our communities, especially our students, from the death and destruction assault weapons inflict on so many innocent people.”

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Flanell told Fox News Digital Colorado’s “anti-gun lawmakers are undoubtedly out of touch with Americans’ support of the Second Amendment,” citing how the U.S. recently became a constitutional carry majority nation. 

“Twenty-nine states currently have constitutional carry. While over 50% of the country recognizes the Constitution, states like Colorado are going backwards,” Flanell said. “Our homicide by firearm rate has surpassed the national rate for the first time in over 40 years, while states who have passed constitutional carry are seeing a decrease.

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Colorado's capitol building

Colorado State Capitol in Denver  (John Greim/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“This comes after Colorado lawmakers have already enacted gun control measures such as universal and expanded background checks, magazine capacity limits, safe storage, red flag laws, etc. And the state has even created their own Office of Gun Violence Prevention. The same trend of higher crime with more restrictive gun laws has been proven repeatedly in other states, and politicians refuse to recognize that the firearm violence occurring is overwhelmingly not from legal firearm owners.”

Just last month, Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed 30 gun control bills, including one that would have made it a misdemeanor to import, sell, manufacture, purchase or transfer so-called “assault firearms” and another that would have banned guns on college campuses and buildings owned by public universities and institutions of higher education. Democrats in that state hold control of the General Assembly but do not have enough votes to override the Republican governor’s vetoes. 

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Flanell is the founder and owner of Elite Firearms & Training in Colorado Springs, which she opened in 2013 after the death of her mother, who also was a gun instructor in the state, Flanell told Fox News Digital. 

“In 2012, my mom, who was a firearms instructor, sadly passed away. I moved back to Colorado from New York City, where I had been living for eight years, to help my dad with the family businesses. A week before my mom passed away, I shot my first firearm with her instruction. At that point, I knew very little about firearms and was determined to learn as much as I could, so I could help keep my parents’ businesses alive and thriving,” she said. 

She told Fox Digital that from what she heard from fellow law-abiding gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment, “the public is fed up” with the state’s push to enact further gun control measures. 

Woman holding gun

A woman aims a gun at a gun shop. (Miguel Schincariol/AFP via Getty Images)

“Roughly 600 people signed up to testify against the ‘assault weapons’ ban bill, and testimony was cut at 12 hours with hundreds still waiting to testify,” Flanell said. “Colorado has over 2,500 federal firearms licensees, which means they have a license to sell firearms. In my opinion, every one of these people should have been standing at the Capitol fighting this as it will undoubtedly decimate their business if this law passes. Understandably, many feel exhausted by the constant assaults on their rights, but right now is not the time for any gun owners or stores to be complacent.”

Yet another bill under consideration, HB 24-1310, would repeal an existing exemption and prevent school staff such as teachers from carrying on school grounds. 

“Colorado law currently allows for individual school districts to determine their own armed security protocols, something that is often utilized by charter schools and rural districts across the state,” Flanell said. “I’ve personally certified school employees to carry on school grounds. One particular school is located over 20 miles from their sheriff’s office. If there’s an active shooter, children and staff don’t stand a chance if they relied on law enforcement response.”

Flanell cited research showing most mass shootings unfold in “gun-free zones” where criminals are less likely to be confronted by an armed good Samaritan. 

The “assault weapons” ban bill, combined with a bill that would assess gun and ammo sales with an 11% tax and a bill that would prevent legal gun owners from carrying guns in areas defined as “sensitive,” such as college campuses, parks and places of worship, resembles legislation signed into law in California. 

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The Golden State earlier this year called on a federal circuit court to reverse a lower court’s decision on California’s ban on semi-automatic weapons after the law was found unconstitutional. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom last year also signed into law an 11% state tax on guns and ammo and another bill that prevents gun owners from carrying in areas described as “sensitive.” California is the only state in the nation with the additional tax.

Washington state also went on a recent gun control blitz, with the governor signing bills into law that banned “assault weapons,” enacted a 10-day waiting period to buy a gun and requires gun makers and dealers to take “reasonable steps” to keep guns from “dangerous individuals.”

rocky mountains in colorado springs

A view of the Rocky Mountains at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colo.  (Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Flanell said the bill that would ban “assault weapons” is the “scariest” piece of gun control legislation but noted she’s watching the other bills as well. She argued the bill that would tax gun owners 11% to purchase guns and ammo would have drastic effects on lower-income Americans who want to protect themselves. 

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“Most of these proposed bills in Colorado will hurt the underprivileged the most, ensuring only the wealthy can protect themselves or express their constitutionally protected right,” Flanell said. “Firearms are not inexpensive, averaging a little more than $500 each. When you add an 11% tax to that and on ammunition, it adds up quickly. Especially for someone to maintain proficiency with their firearm. They need to practice, and they can’t afford it at a time when most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.” 

Flanell argued the tax is a “sin tax,” adding, “self-defense is not a sin; self-defense is a human right.”

“Another pending bill, HB24-1270, requires gun owners to get liability insurance,” Flanell said. “Not only does this increase the cost for gun owners, but I think it will be difficult to find a company that will cover them, making the few companies that do a monopoly. As we’ve seen with banks, many merchants refuse to do business with gun stores and gun-related accessories and training, often dropping accounts without notice. 

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“My goal was and has always been to help people learn in a safe, fun environment, but I really wanted to be a resource and role model for women.” 

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