Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) Members of a newly formed Gun Violence Prevention Caucus in the state Legislature hope that by heading into a new legislative session as a united group, they can accomplish major policy goals around firearms and keep the issue at the forefront of other lawmakers’ minds.

“We’ve been ad hoc, but we wanted to go into the next session — especially with these historic majorities — we wanted to say that as members of this caucus that this is a priority for us. We feel that it is a public health crisis,” Rep. Meg Froelich, a Democrat from Greenwood Village serving as a co-chair of the caucus, told Colorado Newsline.

So far, the caucus has 16 state representatives and six state senators, all Democrats. It includes Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora, who lost her son and his fiance to gun violence in 2005, and Sen.-elect Tom Sullivan of Centennial, who lost his son in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting and served as a state representative for 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 prompted gun law changes.

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

“That’s what the caucus also serves to do — support each other, to come up with the best strategies and ultimately honor the work of the people who are in the building because they suffered a personal tragedy and that translated into running for office,” she said.

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

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

“I’ve always been of the approach that it is a conversation we should be having on a daily basis, just like we talk about education and transportation and health care and climate change. That’s what the plan is,” he said.

Hope for Republican participation

Sullivan has sponsored several firearm-related bills during his time as a legislator, including Colorado’s 2019 red flag law. He planned to introduce a bill to increase the minimum purchase age for assault-style weapons last legislative session but it did not end up happening. He said that issue is a conversation he is still willing to have.

In addition to proposing new legislation to reduce gun violence, Froelich said the caucus will be focused on accountability and ensuring that current policies are being implemented. She specifically mentioned the 2019 red flag law, a 2021 safe storage law, ammunition limits and the creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention in 2021.

“We want to make sure they are actually reducing fatalities and reducing instances of violence. We passed the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, and we want to be aware of what that office is doing, that it is robust and that the research coming out of it informs our decisions,” she said.

While the caucus is currently solely Democratic, Sullivan and Froelich both said they hope their Republican colleagues will join soon. Even if they don’t, Democrats are well positioned in their majorities in both the House and Senate to get legislation passed — the Senate membership will be 23-12 in favor of Democrats, and the House membership will be 46-19 in favor of Democrats.

The 2023 legislative session convenes on Jan. 9.