Colorado Judge Strikes Down Boulder's AR-15 Ban 

Preemption winning streak continues for gun advocates

Students place their AR-15 semi-automatic rifles on a bench during a shooting course /AFP via Getty Images
March 17, 2021

A judge struck down Boulder, Colorado's ban on the possession of AR-15s and magazines holding more than 10 rounds on Monday. 

Colorado state judge Andrew Hartman ruled the city's gun ban violated the state's preemption law, which prevents localities from imposing gun regulations above and beyond state law. Judge Hartman's ruling declares the ordinance invalid and immediately bars the city from enforcing the ban. 

"The Court has determined that only Colorado state (or federal) law can prohibit the possession, sale, and transfer of assault weapons and large capacity magazines," Hartman wrote in the ruling.  

The ruling is the latest in a string of victories for gun advocates who have used state preemption laws to overturn strict local gun regulations. A Washington court struck down a local ordinance on gun storage in February 2021, and a Pennsylvania court struck down Pittsburgh's attempt to regulate the use of AR-15s inside city limits in October 2019.

Jon Caldara, a longtime Boulder resident who openly flouted the AR-15 ban, said he was "thrilled" by the ruling. The former Denver Post columnist and Independence Institute president publicly announced he would not comply with the order to turn over his AR-15 or ammunition magazines when the ban was instituted in 2019. He filed a separate federal suit against the ordinance and said his family has received backlash from supporters ever since. 

"I was probably the most publicly known criminal in Boulder," he told the Washington Free Beacon. "That made us social outcasts. And it was really bad. My daughter got bullied at school for our position." 

Caldara said the ruling will force the city to live up to its stated ideals. 

"Boulder prides itself on tolerance and diversity and inclusion when, in fact, Boulder is by far the most bigoted city in in Colorado," he said. "And they particularly hate people who have guns. So, what I love about this ruling is it forces Boulder to live up to its stated pride of inclusivity and tolerance." 

Caldara said his federal case will likely be made redundant now that the state struck down the city's ban. The National Rifle Association, which backed the state case, said other localities should take notice of the ruling before they consider trying to enact their own gun bans. 

"While the holding only applies to the Boulder ordinances, the principles behind the ruling will apply to other localities who are considering passing any similar counterproductive ordinances," the NRA said in a statement. 

Shannon Aulabaugh, Boulder's communications manager, told the Free Beacon the city is currently considering whether or not to appeal the decision. 

"City staff will be meeting with outside counsel later in the week to discuss next steps," she said. "The police department will not be enforcing the ban while the law is enjoined." 

The NRA said it expects the ruling to hold up if Boulder does decide to appeal. Hartman's ruling is "very thoroughly and thoughtfully written, which will make it even harder to overturn, should the city appeal it," the gun group said. 

Caldara said he is not letting his guard down and expects the decision to spur a new fight over Colorado's preemption law. 

"Since the case rested on the state's preemption law, I wouldn't be surprised if the gun-phobes in the legislature want to start taking a whack at our preemption," he said. "And they have done that in other areas with preemption laws on the minimum wage, on tobacco taxes and tobacco bans, and even on oil and gas regulations. And they have opened those up to create this patchwork of laws and those areas."