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After Boulder, Fenberg says 'all options should be on the table,' including assault weapons ban

Pat Poblete - Colorado Politics | Published on 4/5/2021

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg said that he personally backs an assault weapons ban, but added that lawmakers are moving deliberately to ensure the legislation they take up in the wake of the mass shooting in Boulder “is thoughtful and is actually meaningful and doesn't just make us feel good but actually can save lives.”

Speaking with reporters at a media availability Tuesday morning, Fenberg, D-Boulder, said conversations around a legislative response to last week’s tragedy in his city have been wide-ranging and have included experts, Republicans and Gov. Jared Polis’ office. Among the proposals Fenberg touched on were measures to bolster mental health services and allow cities to pass gun control ordinances “that go above and beyond what the state does.”

“I'm not in a place where I can say, ‘I know exactly what would have prevented this,’” he said. “I don't think any of us are in a place to say, ‘We know what would potentially prevent the next tragedy.’ But my feeling on it is that all options should be on the table for purposes of the conversation so that we're not excluding good ideas.”

A Senate GOP spokesman indicated there have been conversations between the caucuses on mental health funding but was not aware of such conversations on gun control measures, which Senate Republicans would oppose.

House Speaker Alec Garnett told reporters during a media availability later in the day he wanted to ensure lawmakers are "looking at issues that are going to make a difference."

"It would be irresponsible for the legislature not to do anything in light of the tragedy last week, so those conversations are ongoing," Garnett said. 

Fenberg also pointed to an assault weapons ban. But while he said he personally supported that measure and would vote for it if it came to the Senate floor, he cast doubts on its effectiveness as solely a statewide measure.

“I think in the end for that to truly be effective though, it really does need to happen at the federal level,” he said. “Someone who’s really intent on doing something horrible can drive to Wyoming pretty easily.”

Garnett declined to say if he would support an assault weapons ban when asked by reporters, responding that he has previously been on the record on gun violence measures.

Fenberg also noted the conversation wasn’t solely focused on putting new laws on the books.

“I think a lot of it can be about strengthening the ones we already have,” he said, highlighting extreme risk protection orders, also known as the red-flag law, and better enforcement mechanisms corresponding with background checks.

“It's one thing to do a background check, find out someone's super violent, but if the law still allows that to sell that violent person a gun, I'm not sure what the point is of doing a background check,” he said.

The Boulder Democrat said he expected to have more to share on the legislative response within a couple of weeks. Garnett wasn't prepared to offer a timeline for legislative action, saying he wanted to be "sensitive and delicate to the community" with funerals and memorials planned for the victims in the upcoming week.