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Colorado’s New Gun Law Makes It Easier to Sue Industry

The legislation, which goes into effect Sunday, Oct. 1, will implement a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases and makes it easier for victims of gun violence and their families to sue gun manufacturers and dealers.

Two new gun laws that are set to go into effect in Colorado on Sunday, Oct. 1, will institute a three-day waiting period for purchases and make it easier for victims and their families to sue gun manufacturers and dealers.

The laws, passed by the legislature in April, were among several gun-violence prevention measures signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis this year. Lawmakers also passed a bill expanding the state’s red-flag law, which has already taken effect, plus a fourth measure that generally will require a person to be 21 or older to buy a gun. A federal judge has temporarily blocked that minimum age law amid an ongoing legal challenge.

A fifth bill that regulates so-called “ghost guns” also was passed and signed into law this spring, though some provisions won’t take effect until Jan. 1.

Like the minimum age measure, the waiting period law — which requires that at least three days pass between when someone purchases a firearm and when they take possession — was immediately challenged in court by the gun rights advocacy group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In August, a federal judge declined to block it from going into effect because the gun group hadn’t demonstrated it had been harmed.

The group has since dropped its lawsuit, but RMGO executive director Taylor Rhodes told The Denver Post this week that he planned to purchase a firearm after the law takes effect Sunday, triggering the statutory delay. He then plans to refile the lawsuit, he said.

When Polis signed the bills in the spring, he said they would make Colorado safer and that residents “deserve to be safe in our communities, in our schools, in our grocery stores, in our nightclubs.”

The state increasingly is seen by Republicans and Democrats as a testing ground for gun reforms in the West as Democrats’ majority control over the legislature allows them to more easily pass the measures.

Pro-reform protesters repeatedly descended upon the State Capitol earlier this year to call for legislative action, and Democratic lawmakers have said they plan to continue passing new gun-violence prevention laws and gun restrictions every year into the near future.

But Republicans have criticized the approach as wrongheaded, contending the resulting laws have infringed on Coloradans’ Second Amendment rights. Gun rights groups have increasingly turned to the courts in their attempts to push back against legislative reforms.

Legislators said the waiting-period law was intended to curb suicides by barring immediate access to newly purchased guns.

The second bill kicking in this weekend makes it easier for Coloradans to file lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers by removing certain provisions in state law that had granted the industry broad legal immunity. Until now, gun violence victims or their family members who filed a lawsuit that failed also had to pay the companies’ legal bills.

That requirement has been removed from statute, along with the specific immunity protections.

The law is named after Jessica Redfield Ghawi, who was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. Her parents had unsuccessfully attempted to sue the companies that sold equipment and ammo to the shooter, and a judge required them to pay more than $200,000 in attorney fees once the suit was dismissed under the past law.

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