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  • Writer's pictureMario Nicolais

Assault weapon bill dies, more Coloradans likely to follow

Rep. Elisabeth Epps found out the hard way that guns carry more importance than the safety of our kids and fellow citizens. Her bill to ban guns that fall within the moniker of assault weapons failed before it even reached the floor last week.

That means more Coloradans will soon be collateral casualties.

I am not an Epps fan. Her brand of vitriolic politics tends to make my stomach curdle. She is often indiscriminate with her bombastic outrage or as she wallows in effectuated self-pity; members of her own caucus and the media are as likely to be targeted as Republicans when she does not get her way. When asked about this bill in January, Epps refused to talk to reporters.

Still in her first year at the state Capitol, Epps has yet to learn that the adoration of her social media following does not translate to legislative clout — something it took progressive icon U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez four years to figure out. That may be a big reason Epps found herself as the lone prime sponsor in the state House.

But House Bill 23-1230 did not deserve such an ignominious death.

Whatever issues I have with Epps, she is right about the problem. It is the guns. Failure to remove guns from our streets is a failure to protect our people.

As I wrote just over a month ago, expanding red flag laws, increasing the age to own guns and putting a three-day waiting period in place all help move the needle. But they do so only incrementally.

It is akin to stanching a wound caused by a high-velocity round fired from an AR15 — and if you haven’t scrolled this Washington Post article about the damage they do to a human body, it is catastrophic — with a Q-Tip.

There is little to no chance for survival.

In reality, we will have this discussion again in the near future. And then again. And again. And again. And that all might happen before the Fourth of July.

I made that exact point in early March to a mayoral candidate when I suggested a big, bold strategy that would force a constitutional confrontation. As a matter of emphasis, I noted we would not make it through the month until the election without another high-profile shooting. It only took a few weeks before another Denver East High School shooting captured headlines.

For far too long it has not been a question of if more gun tragedies will happen, but how short the period between them. And the frequency only seems to be quickening.

While guns, legal and illegal, proliferate in our society, we invite death and destruction. Policies that fail to address the primary causation fall short. Epps’ proposal would have been a meaningful beginning.

Even the watered-down version she offered, which would have banned bump stocks and rapid-fire trigger activators, could have saved lives. It is astounding that devices that allowed a man to murder 60 people and wound another 413 find any proponents, much less enough to bar passage.

But the political will to take those steps is not evident at the state level. Maybe it is because of the threat posed by radical gun rights groups or the echo of 2013 recall elections. Maybe it is the libertarian bent of some Democratic leaders or political ambition for higher office.

It even makes sense that Durango and Delta are different from Denver. But we need to take this step somewhere.

The failure of the legislature should embolden municipal leaders to take the lead. Plenty have been victims of bloodshed. While cities like Colorado Springs or Aurora likely do not have the political leadership to take efforts seriously despite their bullet-riddled history, Denver and Boulder have been similarly ravaged.

Thoughts, prayers and righteous demands to do something echo hollow when no action is taken in these localities. Even if there is concern about the legal support for broad change, is it not worth the effort?

I would much rather see a courthouse or ballot box fight than watch more violence on the streets.

If that doesn’t happen, I hope Epps will return with her bill next year. And hopefully with a few more sponsors to help secure passage.

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