Colorado lawmakers form gun violence prevention caucus

Members of a newly formed gun violence prevention caucus in the state legislature hope that by entering a new legislature as a unified group, they can achieve important policy goals related to firearms and keep the issue front and center in the minds of other lawmakers.

“We were ad hoc, but we wanted to go into the next session – particularly with these historic majorities – we wanted to say that as members of this group, this is a priority for us. We believe this is a public health crisis,” Rep. Meg Froelich, a Greenwood Village Democrat who serves as co-chair of the caucus, told the Colorado Newsline.

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So far, the caucus has 16 state representatives and six state senators, all Democrats. They include Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora, who lost her son and his fiancé to gun violence in 2005, and Senator-elect Tom Sullivan of Centennial, who lost his son filming at the Aurora Theater in 2012 and served as a state representative on two terms.

Colorado’s history of gun violence includes the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, the 2012 Aurora shooting, and the 2021 Boulder King Soopers shooting, each of which resulted in gun law changes.

That’s what the caucus is for too – to support each other, to develop the best strategies and ultimately to recognize the work of the people who are in the building because they have suffered a personal tragedy that has resulted in a candidacy.

While Fields and Sullivan serve as the caucus’ “North Star and moral compass,” Froelich said she wants to make sure they aren’t the only ones championing gun reform and leading the conversation.

“That’s also what the caucus is for – to support one another, to develop the best strategies and ultimately to recognize the work of the people who are in the building because they suffered a personal tragedy and it led to them running for office ‘ she said.

The creation of a caucus gives more visibility and legitimacy to the issue of gun violence. It also aligns with what Colorado voters want, Sullivan said.

“It’s time for this because it’s an issue that affects our communities on a daily basis,” he told the Newsline.

“I’ve always believed it’s a conversation we should have every day, just like we talk about education, transportation, healthcare and climate change. That’s the plan,” he said.

Hope for Republican participation

Sullivan has sponsored several firearm-related laws during his time as a legislature, including the 2019 Red Flag Act in Colorado. He planned to introduce legislation last term to lower the minimum purchase age for assault weapons, but it never materialized. He said this topic is a conversation he’s still up for.

In addition to proposing new legislation to reduce gun violence, Froelich said the assembly will focus on accountability and ensuring implementation of current policies. She specifically mentioned the Red Flag Act of 2019, a Safe Containment Act of 2021, ammunition restrictions and the establishment of the Gun Violence Prevention Office in 2021.

“We want to make sure they actually reduce deaths and violence. We passed the Gun Violence Prevention Office, and we want to be clear about what that office is doing, that it’s robust, and that the resulting research informs our decisions,” she said.

While the caucus is currently entirely Democratic, Sullivan and Froelich both said they hoped their Republican counterparts would join soon. Even if they don’t, Democrats are well-placed in their majorities in both the House and Senate to pass legislation — the Senate membership will be 23-12 in favor of Democrats, and House membership will be 46-19 in favor of Democrats.

The 2023 legislative period will take place on January 9th.

The Gun Violence Prevention Caucus consists of:

  • Rep. Judy Amabile of Boulder
  • Rep. Jennifer Bacon of Denver
  • Rep. Tracey Bernett of Louisville
  • Congressman Andy Boesenecker of Fort Collins
  • MP Lindsey Daugherty of Arvada
  • Rep. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge
  • Rep. Elect Elisabeth Epps of Denver
  • Rep. Meg Froelich of Greenwood Village
  • Rep. Elect Eliza Hamrick of Centennial
  • Rep. Iman Jodeh of Aurora
  • Rep. Elect Junie Joseph of Boulder
  • MP Karen McCormick of Longmont
  • Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet of Commerce City
  • Rep. Emily Sirota of Denver
  • Rep. Mike Weissman of Aurora
  • Rep. Steven Woodrow of Denver
  • Sen. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge
  • Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora
  • Senator Chris Hansen of Denver
  • Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Boulder
  • Senator Chris Kolker of Centennial
  • Senator-elect Tom Sullivan of Centennial

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