Colorado Supreme Court upholds gun magazine limit, report.
Colorado’s ban on large-capacity gun magazines is constitutional.
The Colorado Supreme Court issued its ruling Monday morning, ending the seven-year challenge by Loveland-based Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
In 2013, one year after the Aurora Theater Shooting, Colorado’s democratic-controlled legislature passed a number of gun reform bills, including House Bill 13-1224, which banned the sale and transfer of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition. Then-Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law, which took effect July 1, 2013.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners sued in state court, saying it violated the right to bear arms under Colorado’s Constitution. Because of that, Monday’s ruling is final and cannot be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Oral arguments in front of the Colorado Supreme Court took place on Nov. 13.
“We hold that HB 1224 is a reasonable exercise of the police power that has neither the purpose nor effect of nullifying the right to bear arms in self-defense encompassed by article II, section 13 of the Colorado Constitution,” the 7-0 ruling concluded.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners challenged the constitutionality of the magazine ban, but focused on the Article II, Section 13 of the Colorado Constitution, instead of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Plaintiffs cannot now insist that federal constitutional law controls the analysis of their case,” the ruling said. In sum, under article II, section 13 of the Colorado Constitution, the government may regulate firearms so long as the enactment is (1) a reasonable exercise of the police power (2) that does not work a nullity of the right to bear arms in defense of home, person, or property.”
In the ruling, the justices also wrote about mass shootings that the large-capacity magazine ban was intended to prevent.
“These statistics have been deeply felt in Colorado, where LCMs played a lethal role in the Columbine and Aurora massacres. Finally, the record supports the trial court’s finding that the pause created by the need to reload or replace a magazine creates an opportunity for potential victims to take life-saving measures. In short, the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated the reasonableness of the General Assembly’s choice to set a limit on the number of rounds that can be fired before a shooter needs to reload,” the ruling stated.
During oral arguments, Barry Arrington, the attorney for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, challenged the language of the large-capacity magazine ban law as encompassing most gun magazines.
“Large-capacity magazines is actually a political term more than a term of actuality. A lot of these magazines that are banned are the standard capacity that come with these weapons,” Arrington said.
According to the law, a large-capacity magazine means, “A fixed or detachable magazine, box, drum, feed strip, or similar device capable of accepting, or that is designed to be readily converted to accept, more than fifteen rounds of ammunition.”
The ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court compared the definitions of “capable of” and “designed to be.”
“That the legislature used the phrase ‘capable of accepting,’ but immediately thereafter chose the much narrower ‘designed to be readily converted to accept’ evinces a deliberate variation in meaning. Put differently, it is clear that ‘designed to be’ must mean something other than merely ‘capable of,'” the ruling stated.
Ruling cannot be appealed
Since Rocky Mountain Gun Owners challenged the law under the state’s Constitution and not the U.S. Constitution, there can be no appeal.
“The Second Amendment and Article II, Section 13 just use different words, different phrases when they talk about the right to bear arms,” said constitutional law attorney Christopher Jackson. “If you bring a claim under both the federal and the state Constitution, then the court might resolve the case on either of those two grounds, but if you limit it to just the state Constitution, then the court has to make a decision on what the state Constitution says.”
There were two reasons Rocky Mountain Gun Owners did not challenge this federally, according to Executive Director Dudley Brown.
“The reason we didn’t file it in federal court is there was already a federal court lawsuit in 2013,” said Brown. “The U.S. Supreme Court was a very different makeup in 2013, and no one had a crystal ball to know what it would look like seven years later, so why would we have pushed it on that front?”