Colorado gun-control laws ruled constitutional despite these arguments against them

U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger has ruled that Colorado's controversial gun laws don't violate the constitution in a judgement Dave Kopel, who assembled a lawsuit endorsed by assorted businesses and dozens of Colorado sheriffs, has already pledged to appeal.

In May 2013, shortly after the suit was filed, Kopel detailed his arguments for Westword. Here's a look at why he believes the state's ban of all magazines that can hold more than fifteen rounds and a requirement for universal background checks on gun purchases are unconstitutional, as well as Krieger's reasons for deciding otherwise, supplemented by photos, two videos and three original documents, including the just-issued ruling.

Kopel told us that 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."

The magazine restrictions are particularly onerous when applied to the disabled, Kopel feels.

"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 saw 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.

We've included the D.C. v. Heller decision below, as well as a 9News report about the issue originally broadcast in March 2013 that Kopel recommended.

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."

Why not?

"It's not binding on anyone," Kopel said. "You can't force the Denver Police Department to enforce what they would have if the bill had been less aggressively drafted. The words of the statute are what they are, and it can be changed at any time by any future attorney general. If [Democratic state senator] Morgan Carroll is attorney general two years from now, there's no guarantee it will stick around. So our view is, the guidance does not solve the problem of the small magazine ban in practice."

The complaint also attacked the magazine ban on another front.

"The decision in D.C. v. Heller says you can't ban arms that are typically used by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes -- something that's also called the common-use test," Kopel noted. "For the purposes of this case, then, all we need to do to win is to show that the fifteen-round magazine ban violates the common-use test. And handgun magazines up to twenty are, in fact, in common use by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.

"There's also the fact that sheriffs and deputies frequently carry such magazines both as duty guns and personal firearms -- and that's because they're often the best choice for lawful self-defense in defense of yourself and others."

Continue for more about the ruling in the Colorado gun laws challenge, including additional photos, two videos and three original documents.
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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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