It’s Friday, Boulder. And we’ve got news.

For today, John Herrick covers gun bills moving in the state legislature, several of which are sponsored by Boulder lawmakers.

Also, Jenna Sampson reports on an issue roiling the climbing community: Should permanent gear be allowed to be drilled into faces of our wilderness mountains? A long-running controversy, rumor has it the National Park Service and Forest Service will soon issue a policy document that would effectively make it illegal to install bolts in federal wilderness areas, as those bolts would be reclassified as “installations.” Rep. Joe Neguse sponsored a bill last week that would block that move. He worked on it with climbing advocates, including the Boulder Climbing Community, which worries a ban on fixed gear would make climbing less safe.

Also, long Covid may affect more Coloradans than many of us realized, and might even be contributing to labor shortages across our state. As it impacts women and people of color at higher rates, long Covid may also be exacerbating inequities present before the pandemic.

Have a great weekend. I’ll see you Monday.

— Tim, reporter

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What to know today

  • Sunny days are here: Maybe not to stay, but for a little while at least. Temps will be in the 40s with the sun remaining until Monday, when clouds will blanket some of the life-giving rays.
  • Boulder lawmakers move ahead with gun bills: In the lead up to the anniversary of the King Soopers tragedy, in which a gunman killed 10 people, Democratic state lawmakers are moving ahead with a package of gun bills, several of which are sponsored by lawmakers from Boulder.
    • On Thursday, HB-1219, which would create a three-day waiting period for gun sales, passed out of committee and now heads to the full Senate. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Judy Amabile, has already passed the House.
    • Next week, on March 22, the anniversary of the shooting, the House Judiciary will hear two bills. One, SB-170, sponsored by Senate President Steve Fenberg, would amend the state’s “red flag” law to expand who can petition a judge to order the temporary confiscation of someone’s firearms. Also on the committee’s agenda is a bill sponsored by Sonya Jaquez Lewis, SB-168, which would make it easier to sue gun manufacturers. The bills have already passed the Senate.
    • Also in the works this year are: SB-129, which would increase the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, with certain exceptions, and HB-1230, which would ban the sale of assault weapons and rapid-fire trigger activators. — John Herrick
  • Last year, Boulder County, Superior, Louisville and the City of Boulder passed some of the strictest gun laws in the state: In the City of Boulder, for example, the legal age to buy a gun is 21. Buyers must wait 10 days (compared to three proposed in the state bill) after starting a background check before they take the gun home. Dealers must post warnings at their shops.
    • Those same communities passed assault weapons bans, too. But the prohibitions were suspended by a federal district court judge last year after Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a conservative gun-rights group, sued the local governments for allegedly violating Second Amendment rights. The lawsuit is pending.
    • Boulder County commissioners have been lobbying in support of additional state gun-control laws. “We believe that action is needed at local, state, and federal levels to fully address the public health crisis of tens of thousands of gun deaths each year,” Commissioner Marta Loachamin said in a news release on Thursday.
  • King Soopers shooting lawsuit: The son of one of the victims killed in the King Soopers shooting is suing the manufacturer of the gun used. Nathaniel Getz — whose mother, Suzanne Fountain, was killed on March 22, 2021 — is accusing Sturm, Ruger & Co. for how it marketed its AR-556.
    • The lawsuit alleges that the gun manufacturer designed a pistol that could easily be made into a rifle, allowing the company to avoid regulation geared towards rifles. “Ruger’s marketing and sale of the AR-556 pistol with stabilizing arm braces allowed its weapon to function as a stock-stabilized AR-15 rifle, while evading regulations targeted at limiting AR-15-style rifles,” the lawsuit says.
    • Getz filed the suit just before the two-year anniversary of the shooting next week, a day that also acts as the cut-off to file such litigation in Connecticut where the manufacturer is located.
    • “We believe they marketed it in a way that was meant to appeal to the militarization of young individuals, glorified lone shooters and, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, we think they had a moral responsibility to do better,” Getz told the AP.
  • Boulder City Council appoints new board members: The volunteers will help provide councilmembers with policy recommendations. The appointment process was swift and without controversy. Councilmembers’ only complaint was the lack of applicants.
    • City officials said they received 60 applications for the 29 open spots. Due to not enough eligible applicants, spots remain open on the Beverage Licensing Authority, Boulder Junction Access District – Parking Commission, Boulder Junction Access District – Travel Demand Management (BJAD- TDM), Downtown Management Commission (DMC) and University Hill Commercial Area Management Commission. A city official said applications could open again in May or June to fill those seats.
    • As soon as later this year, City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde said city staff may have some recommendations for how to encourage more applicants. That may include shortening term lengths, paying a higher stipend, providing accommodations such as childcare, or consolidating boards with overlapping scopes.
  • Long Covid in Colorado: The state has released a report on long Covid and the findings are bleak. The report states that 229,000 to 652,000 Coloradans may have been affected by long Covid, a condition where symptoms of Covid persist long after the initial infection would normally be kicked. And it’s not just Colorado, an estimated 7% of Americans, or 23 million people in our country, are suffering these extended effects.
    • With long Covid producing symptoms that negatively impact one’s ability to do daily tasks, like work, it’s safe to assume that the disease may be at least partially responsible for labor shortages across the state. For example, in June 2022, job hires in Colorado had decreased by more than 21% compared to June 2020, despite job openings increasing more than 100% in the same period.
    • Long Covid also disproportionately affects women, with women twice as likely to have their bout with Covid extend into the long term. This exacerbates other issues causing women to stay out of, or leave, the workforce — like lack of access to affordable childcare. Since the pandemic, there are more than 35,000 fewer women working in Colorado.
    • The report says it is also “strongly believed” that people of color are most at risk for long Covid due to their high rates of getting Covid to start with, reduced access to healthcare and underlying health conditions.
  • 71st Street closure coming: The second phase of the N. 71st Street Reconstruction Project is starting. To enable the installation of a concrete culvert, N. 71st Street will be closed starting Monday, March 20, extending through June.
    • The project will include drain improvements and a widening of the street to increase the shoulder width, making the intersection at CO Highway 52 hopefully safer. Also, when all drain work is done, the street will be repaved and restriped, theoretically making for a smoother ride after a bumpy few months of detours.
    • The closure will be between Winchester and CO 52. Detours will be put in place. Cyclists should avoid the area and instead use the nearby LoBo Trail.

Go Deeper…

Banning bolts in wilderness rock climbing: Boulder Congressman Joe Neguse jumps into the fight

By Jenna Sampson

March 17, 2023

Boulder’s congressman has jumped into the fight over a question rippling across the outdoors community: Should climbers be allowed to drill bolts into the sheer faces of wilderness mountains? 

Rep. Joe Neguse has come down on the side of climbers. He co-sponsored a bill last week to block an expected move by the National Park Service and Forest Service that would effectively ban fixed climbing gear in designated wilderness by classifying it as an “installation.” Fixed gear, used to make climbing safer, is usually a permanent metal bolt or anchor chains used when removable gear isn’t an option. 

So far, only Colorado’s Black Canyon has applied this potential new standard. In December 2022, the park’s superintendent signed an update to the climbing management plan that prohibits fixed gear for the first time anywhere. The new plan effectively lumps climbing in with other illegal activities like dirt biking, which require detailed assessments to permit. Neguse’s bill would preempt the spread of this policy.

Continue reading…

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BRL picks

🪖 Vietnam Veterans event: On March 30, the East Boulder Age Well Center will be home to a Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day event. All veterans will be honored at the event, and will be able to take part in the Healing Warriors Program pop-up to receive free acupuncture, craniosacral and healing touch therapy. Mayor Aaron Brockett will also speak at a commemorative pinning ceremony. The event starts at 11 a.m.

The March 30 Welcome Home day was established in 2021 to combat the unfortunate way many veterans of the Vietnam War were treated when they returned home from duty.

For more ideas on what to do, check out BRL’s Local Events page.

ICYMI


Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other climate-related issues for Boulder with a focus on explanatory and solutions journalism. He also is the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Tim grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from UNH with a degree in English/Journalism. Email: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.