Assault Weapons Ban Could Be In Colorado's Future After 10 people were killed at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., state Democrats say they're considering joining seven other states and D.C. by banning "assault-style" weapons.
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Colorado Democrats Consider Ban On Assault Weapons After Mass Shooting

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Colorado Democrats Consider Ban On Assault Weapons After Mass Shooting

Colorado Democrats Consider Ban On Assault Weapons After Mass Shooting

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The gunman accused of killing 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., made his first court appearance this morning. He's facing 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder and was ordered to remain in custody without bail. The mass shooting has left many in the state, including elected officials, navigating grief and asking the same question that's been asked so many times before. What can be done to stop this type of gun violence? Colorado Public Radio's Bente Birkeland has more.

BENTE BIRKELAND, BYLINE: Judy Amabile represents the district where 10 people were killed this week at a King Soopers. And she has personal ties to that particular grocery store. Her son used to work there. She says he was stunned but, in a way, not surprised.

JUDY AMABILE: And that's kind of how I felt, too. Like, oh, my God. It's something that we knew was inevitable. We just didn't know what it would look like or where it would happen.

BIRKELAND: Colorado has passed several firearm restrictions in the last decade, universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines. And now preliminary discussions are underway for a ban on assault-style weapons across the state. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg represents Boulder. He says it's a step Colorado must take.

STEVE FENBERG: We are repeatedly having these tragedies. Innocent people are being killed while they grocery shop. And nobody expects the federal government to do something about it. That's scary. That - to me, that means something is broken.

BIRKELAND: Other gun bills are already making their way through the legislature. One proposal would require safe storage of firearms. Another would require people to report lost and stolen guns. Democratic Representative Tom Sullivan has made passing tougher gun laws a priority. He ran for office after his son, Alex, was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting.

TOM SULLIVAN: I thought I had an understanding of what grief was about. But when your son, you know, goes to the movies on his birthday, when you're going to see kids went into King Soopers to pick up tonight's dinner and don't come home, that's a whole different thing.

BIRKELAND: Sullivan says even if gun policies can't end all mass shootings, they still save lives. He reminded his colleagues why he wears Alex's leather jacket when he goes to work at the state capitol.

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SULLIVAN: It gives me a calming effect. And I also hope that during the course of my day, someone else will notice it. And they'll see this is what gun violence looks like.

BIRKELAND: Opponents say tougher laws won't stop mass shootings and just end up hurting law-abiding gun owners. For Republican Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, the only way to truly address this problem is to turn to a higher power.

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JERRY SONNENBERG: I think it's a message that needs said, that God needs to be back in our lives.

BIRKELAND: Republican Representative Richard Holtorf says it's clear the state and country have a mental health crisis.

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RICHARD HOLTORF: We need more outreach in our communities. We need more respect and understanding for our fellow man and our youth.

BIRKELAND: Some Republicans say they want to push massive investment into mental health services. Democrats agree it's a problem. But Speaker of the House Alec Garnett says the country also needs concrete gun laws, not a patchwork approach.

ALEC GARNETT: What makes me most angry is the fact that the federal government hasn't taken the same lead. And the federal government hasn't stepped up and recognized the epidemic.

BIRKELAND: Garnett says he remembers where he was that day back in 1999 when he first learned about Columbine High School. Years later, it was Aurora - now Boulder.

For NPR News, I'm Bente Birkeland in Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID GOORICH'S "THE BELIEVER")

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