Boulder assault weapons ban blocked in court 10 days before shooter used AR-15-style weapon in supermarket attack

Upon Tuesday’s announcement of the arrest of the alleged 21-year-old gunman, who was charged with 10 murders in the first degree, investigators found that the suspect had purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol on March 16, affidavit.

No further details were released on when or how the suspect received the AR-15-style gun six days before the shooting, or whether the gun was used in the King Soopers grocery store. Police have yet to say whether the ordinance would have prevented him from buying or owning the gun within the city limits.

Boulder city attorney Tom Carr declined to comment on the Washington Post, but pointed to the language in the city’s code on assault weapons, which suggests the AR-556 pistol associated with the alleged shooter was in the recently lifted ban would have been included.

Rachel Friend, a city council member, said the events that led to the mass shootings shortly after a judge blocked the gun ban left her frustrated and saddened.

“I’m still too deaf or shocked to say how quickly this happened after it was knocked down – other than to say that was why we wanted to get the ban passed in the first place,” a friend told the Post. “It hurts.”

The Colorado State Shooting Association, one of the plaintiffs who sued Boulder for banning assault weapons, denied that sentiment, arguing in a statement that “emotional sensationalism” about gun laws would tarnish victims’ memories.

“There will be a time to debate gun laws,” the group said in a statement. “But today is not the time.”

Although the weapon associated with the alleged shooter is modeled after the AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles and incorporates similar mechanisms, ammunition and magazines, there are some key differences, such as: B. How quickly and easily they can be bought.

AR-15 style pistols have much shorter barrels than their rifle counterparts and do not use traditional stocks. The barrel length for the weapon involved in Boulder is about 10 inches, or about half a foot, shorter than that of the cousin.

The National Firearms Act regulates short barrel rifles differently than normal rifles in that they are easier to hide in a pocket or under a coat than a long rifle, according to a former special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Buying a short barrel rifle requires a lengthy background check, which can take months and includes fingerprints, a photo, purchase from a retailer, and a $ 200 tax, the former agent said, based on the company’s sensitivity about the condition the anonymity spoke problem.

But AR-15 pistols are not defined as short barrel rifles after gun manufacturers made special designs to circumvent the definitions of what makes a rifle a rifle, he said. AR-15 pistols are also more deadly than a typical pistol as they fire more powerful rifle rounds at a higher rate than slower pistol rounds such as 9mm rounds.

“It’s treated like a Glock,” he said. “But it’s not just a Glock.”

Witnesses interviewed by authorities said the suspect spoke about and played around with a gun in the days leading up to the shooting, according to an affidavit.

Weapons like the Ruger AR-556 pistol have a stabilizing strut that allows the operator to attach the weapon to the forearm with one hand, just like a typical pistol. However, the support can also be used to shoulder the rifle like a normal stock, as shown in videos, which makes the pistol functionally identical to the rifle.

The ATF tried in December to investigate how braces affect the classification of a firearm. The agency abandoned its proposal days later after public outcry from gun attorneys.

The three-year legal battle over Boulder’s regulation is likely to anticipate a similar public debate over whether new weapons control measures are warranted following the recent attack in a part of the country that has seen many such incidents. In mourning for the 10 victims on Tuesday, President Biden called on the Senate to pass two background-check bills already approved by the House of Representatives and to urge Congress to re-enact a ban on assault weapons.

In the North Central area of ​​Colorado, up to nine school shootings have occurred since the Columbine massacre in 1999, killing 12 students and one teacher. Four other major shootings occurred within 20 miles of the high school, including a 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora that killed 12 people.

The earliest of these incidents, plus the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, prompted Boulder officials to take action. Some said they wanted to prevent a similar massacre from happening again.

“I hope and pray we never have mass shootings in Boulder,” Carr told the Daily Camera in March 2018.

With the unanimous support of the council, the law banned the possession, transfer, and sale of most shotguns, as well as certain pistols and semi-automatic rifles with pistol grips, a thumbhole stock, or a protruding grip that could be used to stabilize a weapon with the non-detachable hand.

A permit system was also put in place for people who had previously owned one of these weapons and banned large-capacity magazines. This system was defined as “ammunition feeder with a capacity of more than 10 rounds”.

“If you look at most of the mass shootings, the guns were bought legally,” said Carr. “I see this as a regulation that puts another barrier on someone who thinks about such a horrific act.”

While city officials recognized that the law faced likely legal challenges, they pointed to the city’s rules on house rules as well as its history as a pioneer in liberal issues such as same-sex marriage permits.

Ten people were killed in a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado on March 22, after a gunman opened fire on customers and answering officers. (Lance Murphey, Drea Cornejo / The Washington Post)

The ordinance met with fierce opposition from gun rights activists across the state. On the day of the vote, attorneys from across Colorado came to Boulder, many of whom carried hidden rifles in government buildings across the city.

On March 12, Boulder County District Judge Andrew Hartman joined plaintiffs in stating that a 2003 Colorado state law does not allow cities and counties to restrict weapons that are otherwise legal under federal and state law .

The “need for national uniformity fosters the state’s interest in regulating offensive weapons,” wrote Hartman. He said Boulder’s ordinance could “create a ripple effect across the state” by encouraging other communities to enact their own bans.

The day after Hartman’s decision, city officials ordered Boulder police to cease enforcing the ban. Carr, the town’s attorney, declined to comment on whether to appeal the decision.

After the shooting at Boulder, gun violence prevention advocates said the importance of maintaining such a ban had only become clearer.

Colorado State Representative Tom Sullivan (D), who ran for office while filming at the Aurora Cinema after the death of his son Alex, said he helped get background information and magazine restrictions at the Denver statehouse. Neither Congress nor the state assembly would have the political capital to get to Boulder City Council.

“The assault weapons put the ‘mass’ in the ‘shootings’,” Sullivan, who wore a jacket in honor of his late son at the state capitol on Tuesday, told the Post. “That’s what increases the numbers. This is what brings the assault weapons that could fire as many rounds as were fired.

And Friend, a long-time gun violence prevention advocate, said she hoped real change could occur after the Boulder shots, despite the deaths of ten people.

“I really want us to stop allowing communities to do this,” she told The Post. “We’re staggering and it hurts to be here now. But I don’t understand why we can’t change that for the future. “

Annie Gowen contributed to this report.

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