Sarah Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) A Colorado bill would ban firearms from 19 locations defined as “sensitive” spaces.

Senate Bill 24-131, introduced on Wednesday, would prohibit firearms, either concealed or not, in such places as public parks, community recreation centers, hospitals, sporting venues, bars, libraries, universities, voting centers and government buildings. It would also prohibit people from carrying guns at events like protests and rallies.

“This is just common sense. We really need to have a designation of where it’s OK to have a firearm and where it’s not,” bill sponsor Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, a Longmont Democrat, said.

The bill contains exemptions for law enforcement officers, members of the military, security personnel and people participating in an organized college extracurricular. It would not apply to guns that are in locked containers in someone’s car at one of the specified places.

Guns would be banned at churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship unless the owners expressly allows people to carry. Local governments, if they choose, could pass a law to let people carry a firearm in government buildings.

The bill’s legislative declaration argues that the state can regulate firearms in this way without violating the Second Amendment because the state already regulates carrying in places like schools and public transportation facilities, where children and members of the public congregate.

“I am sponsoring this bill because my constituents are tired of thoughts and prayers in response to gun violence. They want us to take action that makes common sense. This is one of the bills to do so,” sponsor Sen. Chris Kolker of Centennial wrote in a text message.

“It is about the safety of these people, where there are vulnerable populations of children, the sick, mentally ill; high stress, very crowded environments, where people are exercising their constitutional right to free speech, where judgements can be clouded by alcohol. It is our duty to limit the opportunity for harm in vulnerable public places and to vulnerable people.”

The bill is sponsored by Jaquez Lewis, Kolker, Rep. Kyle Brown of Louisville and Rep. Mandy Lindsay of Aurora, all Democrats.

Multiple firearm-related bills

In general, states have a strong history of restricting firearms in some sensitive places. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C., for example, have some sort of prohibition on open and concealed carry in bars, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. That includes both traditionally red and blue states.

A few states have tried a wide-reaching approach like the one outlined in the Colorado bill with mixed success. In New York a federal court upheld provisions of a 2022 law that bans the carrying of guns in “sensitive places” like schools, government buildings, places of worship and Times Square. A federal appeals court panel this year blocked enforcement of a similar law in California, however, as it awaits an April hearing.

“I’m sure (that decision) will be appealed, and that could take another one or two years. We didn’t want to wait two years, because we know how many incidents of gun violence occur in Colorado in one year — way too many,” Jaquez Lewis said.

Colorado lawmakers will consider multiple firearm-related bills this session. A Senate committee gave approval to a bill this week that would appropriate $1.7 million and empower the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to more thoroughly look at illegal firearm sales. Another bill, introduced in late January, would require in-person classes for a concealed carry permit.

Democrats hold a majority in both chambers and can easily pass their legislative priorities. The most effective opposition to any gun law reforms will likely come from groups that challenge the legislation in court, emboldened by a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision — New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen — that sets a tough legal standard for any restrictions.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a conservative pro-gun group, sued over last year’s laws on age requirementswaiting periods and ghost gun registration.

The group is already soliciting help to oppose the sensitive places bill.

“There’s more bad bills coming, but we can’t back down. We can’t give the left an inch and we have to promise that this will be met with lawsuits in court,” RMGO Executive Director Taylor Rhodes said in a video posted by the group on  X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday.

The legislative session runs until early May.