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Hundreds sign up to testify on assault weapons ban during Colorado House hearing

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – A Colorado House committee on Wednesday began an estimated 12 hours of testimony from approximately 500 witnesses who registered to testify on a bill that would ban the sale of so-called assault weapons in the state.

House Bill 23-1230 would prohibit the manufacturing, importing, purchasing, selling or transferring ownership of an assault weapon. It also would prohibit a person from possessing a rapid-fire trigger activator. Individuals, gun show vendors and licensed firearms dealers would face civil penalties for violating the law.

The bill also would make it a misdemeanor offense to possess, manufacture, import, purchase, sell, offer to sell or transfer ownership of a rapid-fire trigger activator.

Panels of four witnesses testified in person and by teleconference. Members of the House Judiciary Committee asked witnesses questions following their testimony.

Rep. Elisabeth Epps, D-Denver, and the bill’s sponsor, began the hearing with an emotional plea for legislators to act, pausing several times to regain her composure. She called herself an abolitionist and said the issue is nuanced and complicated.

“But there are some lines that are clear and this one is for me – it’s the guns,” Epps said. “If these things were easy, they would have been done by now. But we were made for such a time as this. And we know that our silence will not protect us, won’t protect our children, or our neighbors.”

Epps mentioned how it took Colorado 10 years to adopt the Martin Luther King Day holiday and a similar amount to end the death penalty at the state level. However, she admitted there “isn’t any longer a path” for getting the bill out of committee and to the floor.

“And that is OK with me in terms of being a stepping stone to showing that we’ll do the work to ban these weapons that have no place in our society,” Epps said.

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann testified in favor of the bill and said the weapons in the bill are designed to “kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible.”

“It’s beyond comprehension that we cannot agree on this,” McCann said. “We had a federal assault weapons ban for many years under a Republican president and the world did not come to an end. Data shows firearms deaths decreased during that time.”

There were six people against the bill for every witness in favor, according to Colorado House Republicans.

Hanna Hill, director of research and policy for the National Foundation of Gun Rights, testified the bill must be consistent with the text, history and tradition of the Second Amendment.

“Assault weapons bans will fail in every court where the Supreme Court’s precedent is faithfully applied,” Hill said. “So please be aware if you pass an assault weapons ban, our lawyer is standing by with his finger on the button, ready to file this lawsuit before the ink on the governor’s signature is dry.”

Many who testified said the committee should have allowed all testimony.

Committee Chairman Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, reminded all that filing written testimony via the House website was also available.