Colorado gun-control laws go on trial: Here's why more than fifty sheriffs say they're illegal
Today marks the beginning of what's expected to be a two-week trial pertaining to a suit filed by Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith and more than fifty of his colleagues against gun-control laws passed last year. Included among them are a ban of all magazines that can hold more than fifteen rounds and a requirement for universal background checks on gun purchases. What are the sheriffs' arguments? The Independence Institute's Dave Kopel, who helped assemble the complaint (it's on view below), spelled out his main concerns in a wide-ranging interview.
Sheriff Justin Smith.
As Kopel maintained in our original May 2013 post, the two laws, known as HB 1224 and HB 1229, "violate the Second Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment" of the U.S. Constitution, as well as "the Americans with Disabilities Act" -- hence, the decision to file in United States District Court, where the case is being heard under the auspices of Judge Marcia Krieger.
The magazine restrictions are particularly onerous when applied to the disabled, Kopel believes.
Judge Marcia Krieger.
"The ADA requires state and local governments to make accommodations for disabled people, particularly in regard to major life activities," he said. "And many disabled people have less ability when they're attacked in their home to retreat to a point of safety or get behind cover from which they can change a magazine. They may have less mobility, or some might have only one arm, for example.
"So it's more difficult for them to change magazines than do other people -- and therefore, even if the magazine ban were constitutional in general, which we argue it is not, the people with relevant disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations to larger magazines."
Of course, exceptions for the disabled wouldn't be necessary if both laws are struck down.
What troubles Kopel about the magazine ban? First and foremost, he maintains that while the bill on the subject seems to only prohibit mags that support more than fifteen rounds, it actually "bans almost all magazines."
The reason? A line in the bill nixing magazines that can be readily converted to fit more rounds. Since such magazines are used for semi-automatic handguns and rifles -- and because an estimated 82 percent of handguns and at least one-third of rifles manufactured in the U.S. fit in this category -- he sees the result as "a de facto gun ban even broader than the one that was struck down in D.C. v. Heller," a Supreme Court case that tackled prohibitions against handguns in the District of Columbia.
A thirty-round magazine.
We've included the D.C. v. Heller decision below, as well as a 9News report about the issue originally broadcast in March that Kopel recommends.
As Kopel pointed out, "The governor's office and the sponsor of the bill both agree that the magazine ban outlaws all magazines that have removable base plates or floor plates" -- e.g., the kind that can be adapted for more rounds. And while Governor John Hickenlooper is relying on guidance from the office of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to apply the rule narrowly, such an approach doesn't bring with it any guarantees that the interpretation will stand for all time."
Continue for more about the complaint against Colorado gun-control laws, including a video and complete documents.