Denver just became one of the first cities to ban bump stocks for guns

4 min. read
An AR-15 at Hammer Down Firearms in Wheat Ridge. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver on Monday became one of the first cities in the United States to ban bump stocks, the devices reportedly used by the Las Vegas shooter to make his weapons fire at nearly automatic speeds.

The ban passed with the support of the full Denver City Council, but the vote split 11-1 due to debate about the rules for high-capacity magazines -- more on that later.

"Congress failed to act. The legislature had not acted. And I saw an opportunity for Denver to lead the charge and create the momentum that we desperately need," said Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, who originally introduced the idea in Denver.

And that momentum may carry over to the statehouse, where Sen. Michael Merrifield and other legislators have been working for months on a similar ban.

"Hopefully, the strong support in Denver will show our legislators this is necessary to protect our communities. Denver is leading the way on gun safety," added Kennedy-Shaffer, a candidate for state Senate District 34.

The bump stock ban:

Bump stocks are used to "convert" semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons, allowing shooters to simply hold the trigger down and spray bullets at a high rate.

The ban also makes it illegal to possess a magazine that holds more than 15 rounds in pretty much any situation.

“Why would we allow a rank amateur to have that sort of firepower and capacity, unnecessarily, if we’ve already banned machine guns of this type?” said Councilman Rafael Espinoza, who introduced the bill, at an earlier meeting.

Columbia, S.C., became the first U.S. city to ban bump stocks last month, per CityLab. (NPR said they were definitely "one of the first.")

The council voted 11-1 to ban bump stocks in Denver. The only "no" vote was Councilman Kevin Flynn. He supported the idea of the bump stock ban, but had an issue with the magazine rule. More on that below.

The Denver law takes effect as soon as Mayor Michael Hancock signs it, Espinoza said.

The magazine issue:

The council was split by the question of higher-capacity magazines. A magazine is the part of the gun that holds rounds before they're fired.

State law already makes it illegal to possess a magazine that fits more than 15 rounds. There's an exception, however, for people who owned their magazines before July 1, 2013.

The new city law eliminates that "grandfather" clause. This concerned Councilman Kevin Flynn. He supports the bump-stock ban, but he wanted to let people keep the magazines they already own, he said.

"We’re putting law-abiding, decent gun-owners in Denver in a dilemma. Do they now get rid of what they have now and what we’ve for 28 years said was fine and proper?" Flynn said.

His solution was to allow people to keep the higher-capacity magazines in their homes, and only if they'd owned them before July 1, 2013.

"If it’s not in your home, we don't have to bother asking that anymore. If it’s in your home, we’re never going to see it anyway," he said.

That amendment failed on a split vote. Council members Kendra Black, Jolon Clark, Stacie Gilmore, Paul Kashmann and Wayne New also supported Flynn's amendment.

Council President Albus Brooks and council members Espinoza, Robin Kniech, Paul López, Debbie Orega and Mary Beth Susman opposed the grandfather clause exception. Councilman Chris Herndon was absent.

Espinoza originally supported the compromise but changed his mind.

"You've seen me do this before, where I’m still at odds with myself on something," he said. But he ultimately said that he was too worried about ambush situations in residences, among other concerns.

Susman agreed. If higher-capacity magazines are "dangerous outside the home, they’re dangerous inside the home," she said.

Kniech said that the standard should apply universally across the community. She noted that women are frequently the victims of violence at home, and a moment of reloading could give enough time to call for help.

Updated with additional detail about the bump-stock effort in the state legislature.

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