Boulder mayor to gun owners: Banning assault weapons is not tyranny

Michael Isikoff
·Chief Investigative Correspondent
·3-min read

Contending that an assault weapons ban could have prevented the gun massacre that killed 10 people in his city this week, Boulder, Colo., Mayor Sam Weaver pleaded with gun rights advocates to reconsider their opposition to such a move, asking them to address a single overriding question: “Why wouldn’t you want a future where we have fewer innocent people killed?”

Weaver spoke out on the Yahoo News "Skullduggery" podcast on Wednesday, just hours after receiving a condolence call from President Biden. During the call, Weaver said, the president pledged to fight to renew a federal assault weapons ban, even while acknowledging that passage would be “very difficult” due to the all-out resistance from gun groups.

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“I don’t really understand the points they are making,” Weaver said about the gun rights advocates who have fought the assault weapons ban. While describing himself as a gun owner who grew up shooting weapons, he added, “Assault weapons are designed to blow big holes in human beings. If I’m speaking to somebody who is an advocate [of assault weapons], I would ask, 'Why is it important to have these kinds of weapons?' And if I hear something about ‘tyranny’ and ‘standing against tyranny,’ obviously that doesn’t make any sense.

“Do we give people grenade launchers? Do we give them tanks? Where does that line get drawn? Is it really worth the killing of all of these innocent people to have all these weapons in the hands of a million people in our country?”

The massacre at the King Soopers supermarket in Boulder on Monday — in which the 21-year-old suspect allegedly used an assault-style semiautomatic pistol to mow down shoppers, clerks and a police officer — was especially jolting for Weaver and other city officials because they had enacted a citywide ban on assault weapons three years ago in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people.

Mourners hug at a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at a grocery store earlier in the week, outside the courthouse in Boulder, Colo. (David Zalubowski/AP)
Mourners at a vigil in Boulder, Colo., for the victims of a mass shooting at a grocery store. (David Zalubowski/AP)

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But the Boulder ordinance was struck down by a Colorado state judge on March 12 — just 10 days before this week’s supermarket massacre in the city.

Weaver said the Ruger AR-566 pistol that police say the suspect, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, purchased on March 16 would “absolutely” have been covered by the now defunct Boulder ordinance. The weapon has some rifle-style features, Weaver pointed out. “It’s not a pistol,” he said. “It’s got a stock. It’s got the same recoil properties. It has the same magazine capacities. It’s an assault rifle.”

Although law enforcement officials have yet to provide further details, Weaver acknowledged that the gun was likely purchased outside the city because, as far as he knows, the only two gun sellers in Boulder didn’t carry such a weapon. But he said that only underscores the need for changes in state law that could eliminate the sale of such guns throughout Colorado.

However, while Weaver expressed optimism that Colorado will change its laws — Democrats now control both chambers of the state Legislature as well as the governorship — he is less hopeful on the federal level. When Biden called him on Wednesday, he said, the president expressed regret that, while successfully pushing as a senator in 1994 for a federal assault weapons ban, he allowed a provision that would sunset the law after 10 years. The assault weapons ban lapsed in 2004, and gun rights groups and most Republicans have opposed reinstating it ever since. Biden acknowledged that the reinstatement would be an uphill climb, but Weaver said the president added: “That’s no reason not to try.”

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