The Democrats in control of the Colorado General Assembly notched several victories on gun violence prevention before the close of the session on Wednesday. Lawmakers sent Governor Jared Polis bills to require firearms dealers to obtain a state permit in addition to a federal one, standardize training for concealed carry applicants, create a ballot measure asking voters to approve an excise tax on guns and ammunition, and banning guns in a number of “sensitive places” like government buildings and schools. Missing from that list, however, is a proposal to ban the purchase, sale, and transfer — but not possession — of a number of rifles and semiautomatic firearms designated as “assault weapons.”

The bill was voluntarily shelved this week by its Senate sponsor after passing the House on a party-line vote in April. But backers always had reason to be pessimistic about its fate in the upper chamber: To get the legislation to a floor vote, it first had to get through state Senator Tom Sullivan. A Democrat, Sullivan became a staunch advocate for stricter gun laws after his son, Alex, was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater, but he’s long expressed skepticism about bans on high-powered weapons. He confirmed to the Associated Press that, had the bill made it to his committee, his vote would have been a no, saying that such prohibitions zero in on statistically rare shootings, and remove focus from policies that address more common forms of gun violence. And, notably, Sullivan told The Denver Post that he feared a ban could spur a buying spree. 

Sullivan may have been thinking about the consequences of the 1994 federal assault weapon ban, which prohibited the purchase of certain types of semiautomatic rifles. It was one of two landmark pieces of federal firearm reform enacted in the ’90s — the other, the Brady Bill, required licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks nationwide for the first time — and it had the unintended consequence of making the guns more popular. The ban expired in 2004, after a decade in which AR-15s and similar rifles became a symbol of a rising far-right movement and the country’s response to 9/11. And in the decades that followed, mass shootings — the deadliest of which have been perpetrated with military-style weapons — became more frequent.

“Looking back,” host Garrett Graff explains in the latest episode of “Long Shadow: In Guns We Trust” (a podcast produced by Long Lead and Campside Media in collaboration with The Trace, and distributed by PRX), “it’s clear that the assault weapons ban backfired.”

The proposed ban in Colorado was far more sweeping than the 1994 federal ban, and Sullivan wasn’t the only Democrat who questioned the measure; Governor Jared Polis was skeptical, too. The bill was also, perhaps, particularly resonant due to Colorado’s complex relationship with assault-style weapons: The state has been home to high-profile mass shootings like those at Columbine High School, Club Q in Colorado Springs, and the one that killed Sullivan’s son; voters there also elected gun enthusiast Lauren Boebert to the U.S. House, where she co-sponsored legislation to make AR-15-style rifles the “national gun.”

Colorado state Representative Tim Hernández, one of the House sponsors of the ban, told the AP that he’d spoken with Sullivan about the bill in previous months. “We both agree that an assault weapons ban is not a silver bullet to the epidemic of gun violence,” he said. “For us to get to a place where we are interrogating all the ways that gun violence shows up, we have to run policies for all the ways it manifests itself.”

From The Trace

A roundup of this week’s stories.

The Rise of the AR-15

In Episode 4 of “Long Shadow: In Guns We Trust,” Wall Street Journal reporter Cameron McWhirter and former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman discuss the political climate that propelled assault-style weapons into the mainstream.

Philly’s District Attorney Convicts Cops for Wrongful Killings. Critics Say He’s Driving Up Crime.

Larry Krasner has arrested four city police officers for on-duty killings since 2018, winning two convictions so far.

How Are Philadelphians Recovering After the Eid Shooting?

Religious leaders and congregants at the Philadelphia Masjid are considering how to prevent gun violence at future celebrations — as they continue to ask why gunfire broke out in the first place.

What to Know This Week

New York lawmakers are considering legislation, introduced Tuesday, that would make it a felony for gun manufacturers and dealers to sell pistols that can be modified to fire like machine guns. State Senator Zellnor Myrie, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said the proposal is a response to the growing use of attachments like auto sears. [The Wall Street Journal

Nearly three months after the shooting at a Super Bowl victory parade in Kansas City, Missouri, at least three of the 24 people who were wounded are still living with bullets in their bodies. Their recovery highlights a surprising gray area in medicine: Even as gun violence is increasingly viewed as a public health crisis in the U.S., there are no clear medical protocols on bullet removals. [KCUR and KFF Health News

U.S. Representative Tony Gonzales, whose sprawling Texas district includes Uvalde, isn’t the GOP’s favorite Republican. But that hasn’t deterred party leadership from backing him against challenger Brandon Herrera in a contentious primary runoff this month. Some Republicans fear that if Gonzales loses to Herrera, a pro-gun, Holocaust-mocking YouTuber who made a recent campaign stop with Kyle Rittenhouse, the influencer is likely to inflame party infighting, or they’ll lose the seat to a Democrat. [Politico/El Paso Matters/Intelligencer

Tom Nguyen, a firearms instructor in Los Angeles, rejects stereotypical American gun culture — a nationalistic, conservative, and largely white space — and the idea that owning a gun has to define your personality. Under the banner “L.A. Progressive Shooters,” Nguyen teaches basic pistol courses to those excluded from mainstream gun culture, and rookie shooters who are wary of owning a gun at all. [Los Angeles Times

In 2020, the Oakland, California, school district disbanded its school police department, and the city invested millions in school-based violence prevention and intervention. This week, city officials heard long-awaited reports on how those efforts are going — and while Oakland schools still experience shootings and other forms of violence, the officials were left optimistic about the preliminary data. [The Oaklandside]

In Memoriam

Mahki Brown, 16, was his mother’s only son — and he worked hard to pursue the kind of future she was leading him to, loved ones said, commuting two hours each day from his home in Brooklyn, New York, to get to his charter school and dedicating himself to his studies. Mahki was killed blocks away from his lower Manhattan school this week, in a shooting that police believe broke out as he was trying to mediate a fight. He was a child of his building, Gothamist reported, beloved by neighbors who helped raise him alongside his mom. Mahki was also a regular sight at the local basketball courts: He was passionate about the sport — he was “his own favorite basketball player,” his coach said — and had played in youth leagues since he was small. “He was always trying to help somebody,” a family friend told the New York Daily News. “We have those people who have that type of heart.”

We Recommend

When Prison and Mental Illness Amount to a Death Sentence: “He did not resist. He couldn’t. He was so gravely dehydrated he would be dead by their next shift change. … Mr. Johnson, 21 and serving a short sentence for gun possession, was in the throes of a mental collapse that had gone largely untreated, but hardly unwatched.” [The New York Times]

Pull Quote

“Trauma care is war medicine. It is set to be ready at any moment and any time, every day, to save a life. It is not equipped to take care of the healing that needs to come after.”

— LJ Punch, a trauma surgeon by training and the founder of the Bullet Related Injury Clinic in St. Louis, on why bullets are so often left in a shooting victim’s body, to KCUR and KFF Health News