The Spot: How politicians are responding to the Boulder shooting

For people, policy and Colorado politics

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Colorado has had seven mass shootings in less than 30 years. According to a Denver Post analysis, they’ve taken the lives of 47 people, injured 117 and brought lasting trauma and grief to countless others.

The seventh of those shootings happened Monday at a King Soopers in Boulder, and 10 people died — the worst since the Aurora movie theater shooting in 2012.

There are already discussions in the political world at state and federal levels about what to do now, and we’ll get into that below.

But more importantly, The Spot would like to acknowledge the victims’ names and their stories: Denny Stong, Neven Stanisic, Rikki Olds, Tralona Bartkowiak, Suzanne Fountain, Teri Leiker, Boulder officer Eric Talley, Kevin Mahoney, Lynn Murray and Jody Waters.

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Capitol Diary

What will Democrats do?

The Democrats are in control in Colorado, so there’d be no time like the present if they wanted to make serious changes like a statewide ban on “assault-style weapons.” 

The idea has support from all three Boulder state lawmakers, who told their constituents as much two days after the shooting. But no Democrat has come forward to say he or she will sponsor it, and Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Longmont and others have said that kind of ban should come from the federal government, not the state.

If anyone knows what it’s like to advocate for new gun laws, it’s state Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was fatally shot almost 10 years ago at the Aurora movie theater. His take? “Just like (the discussion that) the Broncos need a new quarterback, that conversation goes on every single day. What they can do about it is a whole other thing.”

In the meantime, other gun legislation is in the works, like Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg’s idea to overturn a 2003 state law that says cities can’t have stronger gun laws than what’s in state law (something that Boulder tried in 2018 and a judge just recently said it had no jurisdiction to do so).

Already, a bill to mandate that guns are securely stored passed the House on March 9 and is headed to the Senate. And another that would penalize people who don’t report stolen or lost guns within five days passed the Senate on March 10. 

More Colorado political news

  • A bill that would have kept county commissioners off of public health boards has been diluted. 
  • Gov. Jared Polis and the state department of health made major, and likely final, changes to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions. The short of it? Restaurants and gyms are back to “normal” provided there is distancing.

Federal Politics

The more things stay the same, the more things stay the same

On Thursday morning, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, whose district includes Boulder and whose wife grew up there, was joined by 61 other House members in calling for President Joe Biden to ban “the importation of assault weapons, including semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines.” 

Every Colorado Democratic representative signed on. The last estimate of how many such rifles in the U.S. were imported was 4 million in 2015.

Earlier in the week, Biden called U.S. senators out in a national address, asking them to pass a ban on so-called assault weapons and close loopholes on background checks for gun purchases. Two bills, relating to background checks, have already passed the U.S. House. 

Spokespeople for Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper both said they support expanded background checks. Hickenlooper also said he wanted “bold, comprehensive federal action.”

But GOP U.S. Rep. Ken Buck called the Democrats’ renewed push for further gun laws “a political stunt.” Speaking on Fox News’ “America Reports” show Wednesday, he added he believes there is “no relationship between the type of activities that these folks are talking about and the result that they seek.” 

Buck also mentioned the Colorado statewide high-capacity magazine ban, which took effect in July 2013, also had not stopped shootings, and suggested, like Republican state lawmakers, that mental health needs to be addressed first as well as “how to make sure really dangerous people don’t have access to these guns.” 

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a gun aficionado, tweeted that Democrats should “stop focusing on gun control and start focusing on border control.” (She also criticized New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over a tweet about gun laws, calling him a pervert.)

The partisan divide of gun laws in D.C. hasn’t changed, though Democrats now hold the House, the Senate and the presidency. The last two times there were major calls for major gun bans were in 2013 (during President Barack Obama’s tenure, when Republicans controlled the House), and in 2017 (during President Donald Trump’s administration, when Republicans controlled Congress).

Mile High (and the suburbs) Politics

Arvada’s connection


The 21-year-old man charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder is a 2018 Arvada West graduate who lived in what neighbors said appeared to be a multi-generational household in a quiet suburban neighborhood.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa’s former wrestling teammates said he was short-tempered, violent, paranoid and “kind of scary to be around.” They said he was concerned about being targeted because he was a Muslim. He attacked a classmate in 2017. But Alissa also could be friendly, “so joyful and so nice,” and quick-witted. 

Authorities have not provided any information about a possible motive for the shooting.

More Denver and suburban political news

  • Denver City Council gave the blessing for millions in bonds to make upgrades to the National Western Center and the Colorado Convention Center. 

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