Colorado House Judiciary Hears “Assault Weapons Ban” Bill: See Moments Here


Carly Philpott

Representative Elisabeth Epps (D-HD6), the bill’s sponsor, opens with testimony. “It’s the guns,” she repeated.

Carly Philpott and Quinn Rudnick

The Colorado House Judiciary Committee is currently deliberating over HB-1230, which aims to limit the sale and possession of assault weapons, in a hearing that is expected to last 12 hours. 522 people signed up to testify for or against 1230 in the Old House Library. According to Representative Elisabeth Epps (D-HD6), who sponsored the bill, the witnesses against the bill outnumber the witnesses for the bill six to one.

The bill, according to the House website, “prohibits a person from manufacturing, importing, purchasing, selling, offering to sell, or transferring ownership of an assault weapon,” in addition to a rapid-fire trigger activator. Epps discussed amending the bill to apply to only bumpstocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire similarly to an automatic weapon.

Emotions ran high, with Judiciary Committee Chair Mike Weissman (D-HD36) having to remind attendees of decorum rules multiple times.

One U.S. Army veteran called the bill “the most hateful, uneducated, uninformed attempt on Americans that I’ve read in a long time.” Another witness, a dance instructor, asked, “how many more children must die before we decide to take action?”

Joseph Pope III, bassist for Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, heavily supported the bill, urging the committee to apply compassion to their votes. “Can compassion be a verb, not a feeling? Our children need us to activate our compassion,” he said.

Epps agreed with Pope, recognizing the need to treat these issues with compassion and care. “We accept your invitation to treat compassion as a verb,” she said.

Libby Ballard, the state policy manager for Brady, a nationwide organization that advocates for gun control, also testified for HB-1230. “Colorado has seen firsthand the result of deadly assault weapons,” she said. “Protect Coloradans by banning assault weapons.”

Advocates for the bill also included students, teachers, doctors, the Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, representatives for gun regulation advocacy groups, and gun violence victims’ families. Advocates against the bill included law enforcement officers, veterans, gun rights organizations, and a school shooting survivor.

El Paso Sheriff Joe Roybal testified against the bill, citing a strip-down of American rights. “1230 is extremely flawed and perpetuates false hope,” he said. “People should be afraid of this bill because it erodes our rights.”

California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York have already enacted some kind of assault weapon ban, according to Giffords. At the national level, President Biden has called for similar legislation, though a split Congress makes it unlikely to pass.

Epps reminded the room in her opening testimony that “it’s the guns.”

“I’m not scared of y’all voting no, I’m scared of us not trying,” Epps said in the testimony, expressing doubt that the bill could pass in its entirety this time around. “Which school was it when you realized: ‘Babies? We’re not gonna ban [assault weapons] now? When will we?’ There’s nothing funny about someone’s child being under a table in a cafeteria.”

This story was awarded Third Place Photo Slideshow from CSPA. See moments from the hearing below.