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If the gun control law passed two years ago in Boulder, Colorado, had been left in place, the gun a 21-year-old man allegedly used to kill 10 people at a grocery store in the city would have been illegal. And the high-capacity magazine that allowed him to fire a burst of bullets was already banned.
Just six days before the suspected gunman walked into a King Scoopers on March 22, he purchased an AR-15-style assault rifle known as a Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic pistol, although police have yet to determine where. The gun also comes with a 30-round magazine, although it’s unclear what kind the gunman had purchased. The weapon is sometimes referred to as a “patrol rifle,” because it’s most often used in law enforcement and for tactical purposes, rather than for sport or hunting.
The weapon has also been used in a number of other mass killings, like the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting that left 12 dead and the one at Sandy Hook Elementary that killed 27, according to Newsweek.
But four days before the alleged shooter purchased that gun, a Colorado District Court Judge ruled that a 2018 law that banned the sale of assault rifles and high capacity rounds was unconstitutional. The Boulder City Council unanimously passed the ban in 2018, but the judge ruled that the city government can’t overturn the state’s liberal gun laws, which allows the weapons to be purchased. It’s unclear, however, if the law would have made a difference.
“I’m not certain that if the ban had not been overturned that this killer would have made any different choices,” Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver said when asked about the city’s recently overruled assault rifle ban during an interview on CNN’s Tuesday. “It’s very hard to enforce at a city level.”
The City of Boulder wasn’t the only governing body in Colorado trying to get ahead of preventing another mass shooting: This past January, state Democrats introduced a law proposing three major gun reforms, including imposing a five-day waiting period for all gun buyers.
“This isn’t going to end the crisis of gun violence in our society,” said state Democrat Rep. Tom Sullivan who’s working on two of the three bills and is a staunch gun reform advocate. He lost his own son in the 2012 Aurora shooting. “But it will help to curtail it.”
Waiting periods are meant to delay the time between a gun buyer’s decision to purchase a weapon and when they have access to it. The law has been shown to reduce gun homicides by as much as 17%, according to a 2017 study highlighted by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Only 13 states and Washington, D.C, have mandatory waiting periods.
In theory, a five-day waiting period in the state would have kept the weapon out of the alleged Boulder shooter’s hands during the time he was tinkering with the weapon in his home, as reported by Reuters.
The week before the Colorado shooting, another gunman traveled around to three different Atlanta-area massage businesses and killed eight people in total. He bought his gun the same day—Georgia is another state without any waiting period to purchase a gun. If they already have a license, all someone needs is a state-issued ID.
In Colorado, open carry is the law of the land, though the weapon must be visible if armed in public. The state also bans high-capacity magazines over 15 rounds as well as machine guns (with some exceptions) and “short rifles,” which typically have a barrel length under 16 inches and a total length over 26 inches, according to the Denver Post.
The assault-style rifle the Boulder shooting suspect used comes in two barrel lengths: 9.5 and 10.5.
A gun license is only required for concealed carry in the state. The state does not require gun owners to register their guns in the state, although background checks are required for both licensed and unlicensed weapons sellers.
After Monday’s shooting, Weaver, Boulder’s mayor, called on state lawmakers to reconsider serious gun reform and he just might get his wish. The bill proposed by state lawmakers in January still has to be voted on by the state House and Senate, but it’s expected to pass, according to the Denver Post.
President Joe Biden also called for more stringent federally mandated background checks and a proper ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“This is not and should not be a partisan issue—it is an American issue,” Biden said, calling on the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate to act on legislation.