In May, the city council of Boulder, Colorado, unanimously passed an “assault weapons” ban, along with a ban on bump stocks and “high capacity” magazines. The ban will officially take effect on January 1, 2019, at which point possession of a prohibited weapon or accessory will be punishable by 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Weapons already owned by Boulder residents will be grandfathered in, provided that their owners come forward before December 27 to receive an official “certificate” from the city government. According to Boulder police Sgt. Dave Spraggs, “certification is not a registry” (uh huh) and the police department isn’t keeping any records besides a handwritten count (again, uh huh).
Even better, certifying your guns will cost you. The price is $20 for the first gun and $5 for each additional one. And because police (allegedly) aren’t keeping records, they can’t issue a replacement certificate in case the original is lost.
“It’s a simple process, it’s a reasonable cost,” said Spraggs. “We encourage people to get it done.”
“The ordinance specifically excludes a .22 long rifle,” Spraggs also said, “even though it looks like assault gun (because) it takes rimfire versus centerfire ammunition.”
With only 21 days left to go before the certification period closes, a total of 86 certificates have been issued (there are just over 100,000 residents in the college town). Two of those certifications were for the same firearm shared by a husband and wife (for some reason), that means only 85 guns have been certified so far.
City Attorney Tom Carr, who drafted the law to try to fit “the council’s vision,” openly admits that it’ll be difficult to enforce.
“I can’t imagine a way to do proactive enforcement,” Carr said. “Obviously, there’s no circumstance where we go door-to-door and ask people if they’ve violated the law. So, I think it would mostly be responsive.”
“The code gives officers discretion,” Carr said. “For example, if the weapon was discovered during an investigation of a crime of violence, I would think that it is more likely to be seized. If the investigation was for something more administrative in nature, I would expect most officers would advise the person of the law and how to comply.”
Boulder resident John Ramey, who worked together with Councilwoman Mirabai Nagle to propose an alternative to the ban, made the following statement via email when the law was being proposed:
“By definition, effective governing must be practical and enforceable. When something isn’t enforceable, like the war on drugs, that’s a huge sign that the underlying legal model doesn’t match the actual problems and realities.
“At best, ineffective laws just displace or morph the problem. Mass shootings declined after Australia’s weapons ban, but gun-related crimes doubled in just five years. In countries like the UK and China, they now deal with daily fear of acid, knife, and vehicle attacks.”
In addition to rimfire weapons, firearms owned by Boulderites, but stored outside of city limits are exempt from the ban. Officials suspect that many gun owners are using that option, but just as with registration mandates in California and New York, they expect a lot of non-compliance.