Colorado gun-control laws: Columbine dad criticizes sheriffs' lawsuit

Earlier this week, we talked with the Independence Institute's Dave Kopel about a lawsuit against Colorado's new gun-control laws supported by 55 sheriffs throughout the state; see the suit and more below.

Today brings a rebuttal from Colorado Ceasefire's Tom Mauser, who became a gun-control advocate after his son Daniel Mauser was murdered in the 1999 Columbine massacre. He doesn't think much of the sheriffs' arguments.

"It's clear they didn't want these laws passed in the first place," says Mauser, a Colorado Ceasefire board member who serves as the organization's spokesman, "so it's not a surprise they'd attack them on any basis they could."

One portion of the lawsuit contends that the state's ban on magazines that hold more than fifteen rounds violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. As Kopel told us, "The ADA requires state and local governments to make accommodations for disabled people, particularly in regard to major life activities. 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."

Mauser's response? "He's essentially saying it takes more than fifteen bullets at one time to defend yourself, and there's no evidence to show that. If that was the case, you could argue that the disabled should really have a weapon that can fire 100 rounds. Yet he acknowledges that they're not trying to make the case for 100 rounds."

Indeed, Kopel said if the lawsuit had been about magazines holding that number of rounds, rather than those in the twenty-to-thirty range, a number of the 55 sheriffs currently supporting the complaint likely wouldn't have offered their endorsement.

Kopel also maintains that a line in the bill nixing magazines that can be readily converted to fit more rounds results in a "de facto gun 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. (We've included that ruling below as well.) By his estimate, 82 percent of handguns and at least one-third of rifles manufactured in the U.S. use such magazines. In his view, that meets the so-called "common-use test" featured in the D.C. v. Heller judgment.

To Mauser, this assertion is suspect because "the Supreme Court ruling in the D.C. case was about the weapons, not the number of bullets.

"He's trying to say that because these guns commonly carry a thirty-round magazine, that's what makes them common," he goes on. "And while the court ruled that handguns are common, they didn't run on whether a handgun with a thirty-round magazine would be acceptable. They simply didn't do that, so he's trying to stretch -- trying to say that because a number of people have these fifteen- or thirty-round magazines, therefore it's common and should be allowable. And I would disagree with that -- so obviously, he's throwing it to the courts to decide."

Continue for more of our interview with Tom Mauser, plus documents and a video.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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