Seven months after Denver’s bump stock ban, a total of zero have been turned into police

Proponents of gun control legislation say that’s OK, and that the measure was about stoking a broader conversation.
3 min. read
A FN Herstal with silencer and a Barnes Precision rifle. Neither are equipped with bump stocks. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

In late January, Denver City Council voted to ban bump stocks. The spring-loaded devices use recoil from a semi-automatic rifle to turn the gun into a virtually automatic weapon, and they became a hot topic after one was used in the mass shooting in Las Vegas last October.

After the ban passed City Council, Denver Police Department issued an invitation for bump stock owners to turn them in. Nearly seven months later, none have been handed over.

Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully in a state Senate primary race, drove the ban effort after the Las Vegas shooting and said he's not surprised. But, for him, the measure wasn't necessarily about rounding up contraband.

"It was a symbolic victory. It wad the first gun safety legislation passed in Colorado in five years," he said. "That is significant."

Kennedy-Shaffer hopes the ban, which passed through City Council committee unanimously and through Council itself in an 11-1 vote, will act more as a "deterrent" moving forward. This was one thing everyone could get behind in the name of public safety.

"It wasn’t just a one-off proposal, it’s part of the broader conversation that we really need to have," he said.

Part of Kennedy-Shaffer's motivation was to drive similar conversations in the state legislature, but that's a much tougher sell.

Around the same time Denver City Council was voting on their measure, Colorado Springs State Sen. Michael Merrifield, a Democrat, sponsored his own bump stock ban at the State House, but it died in committee.

The legislature has nothing near the unanimous support Kennedy-Shaffer enjoyed for his citywide ban, but he said statewide gun restrictions are a much more important step for his cause. He said he's "hopeful" state reps will "take the next step."

House Assistant Majority Leader Alec Garnett, a Democrat who represents District 2 in Denver, said he wouldn't be surprised to see a bump stock ban introduced in the next legislative session. But there other efforts out there that he thinks might curb gun violence more effectively.

A product ban might not be most effective at the state level if someone can just go to another jurisdiction, he said, kind of like how you can drive to Wyoming for fireworks. Instead, Garnett said a "red flag" law, which would allow authorities to confiscate weapons from someone in crisis, could have much more impact in preventing a dangerous situation. But a bill allowing that kind of measure also died in committee last year.

Garnett said Democrats will likely be taking another crack at that this session, too. And while a bump stock ban might also be introduced, he, like Kennedy-Shaffer, prefers to kick that issue up to the next level.

"We need the federal government to step up," he said, to ensure the devices aren't available anywhere.

"A lot of people that I’m out talking to care about this issue," Garnett said. "Colorado should be a place where people can feel confident that these things aren’t floating around."

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