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Court order lifting Boulder assault weapons ban scrutinized after shooting

A Colorado judge’s decision earlier this month to block an assault weapons ban in Boulder, Colo. is facing scrutiny after gun control advocates drew fresh attention to the court ruling following a shooting on Monday at a Boulder grocery store that left 10 dead.

In a 22-page opinion, Colorado state court Judge Andrew Hartman on March 12 invalidated the city’s 2018 assault weapons ban, ruling that Boulder had unlawfully encroached on the state’s power to regulate firearms.

Several days after the ruling, suspect Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa allegedly purchased one of the guns involved in the deadly shooting, according to an arrest warrant.

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It was not immediately clear whether the suspect would have been stopped from buying the gun had the judge allowed the assault weapons ban to stand. Law enforcement officials did not reply to requests for comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

A spokesperson for the city of Boulder said officials were already considering filing an appeal to the ruling prior to the Monday shooting and that the move is still under discussion.

Gun control advocates who said the deadly rampage was only the latest evidence of the need for stronger gun laws pointed to Hartman’s ruling as a sign that the country was moving in the wrong direction.

The plaintiffs in the case, two Boulder residents, were backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) in their challenge to the city’s assault weapons ban.

“A week ago, the NRA celebrated a judge blocking Boulder from enforcing its two-year-old assault rifle ban,” the Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee said on Twitter. 

“Within a week, at least ten Americans lost their lives at the hands of gun violence in Boulder,” the lawmakers added. “When will Republicans stop letting the NRA dictate federal policy?”

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The NRA said in a statement Tuesday that "it is our longstanding rule to wait for all the facts to be known before making any policy statements. Regrettably, gun control advocates have already rushed to politicize this horrific situation – even as most of the salient facts remain unknown."

President BidenJoe Biden28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Franklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Schools face new pressures to reopen for in-person learning MORE on Tuesday called on Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and urged lawmakers to close loopholes in gun background checks.

“I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” Biden said at the White House following the shooting.

“We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again. I got that done when I was a senator. … We should do it again,” he added.

Biden called on the Senate to “immediately pass” two gun control bills the House passed March 11, which were backed by few Republicans. The bills would strengthen background checks on firearms sales and transfers.

The renewed focus on gun control legislation comes after the shooting at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder claimed the lives of 10 people, including a Boulder police officer.

According to an arrest warrant, Alissa, 21, had been armed with a rifle, a semiautomatic handgun and a green tactical vest.

Investigators determined that Alissa bought one of the weapons — a Ruger AR-556 pistol — on March 16, according to an affidavit filed in support of his arrest warrant. The police records did not say where the weapon was purchased.

Alissa faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Fred Guttenberg, a gun control advocate whose daughter was killed during the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., called the gun violence in Boulder “predictable & preventable.” 

“Boulder had passed an ordinance banning assault style weapons. Six days ago, the NRA blocked that law from enforcement through a lawsuit,” he wrote on Twitter. “They called it Victory in Colorado.”

—Updated at 6:40 p.m.