Gun owners lost another round in the courts last week when U.S. District Chief Judge Marcia Krieger ruled that Colorado’s new gun-control laws that limit the size of ammunition magazines and require universal background checks are not unconstitutional.
In her 50-page ruling in Colorado Outfitters Association et.al. vs. Governor John Hickenlooper, Krieger wrote, “A law may be constitutional, but nevertheless foolish, ineffective, or cumbersome to enforce.” The suit by Colorado sheriffs acting as private citizens, several gun-rights groups, shooting organizations and firearms-parts businesses asserted that the ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds would prohibit gun owners from adequately defending themselves.
(Krieger ruled last year that the sheriffs could not sue the state in their official capacities but they could join the lawsuit as private citizens.) Krieger wrote, “No evidence presented here suggests that the general ability of a person to defend him or herself is seriously diminished if magazines are limited to 15 rounds. Despite more than 40 years instructing individuals and law enforcement in defensive firearm use, the Plaintiffs’ expert witness, Massad Ayoob, identified only three anecdotal instances in which individuals engaging in defensive use of firearms fired more than 15 rounds, and not all of these successful defensive actions involved semiautomatic weapons.” Also, she added, “Of the many law enforcement officials called to testify, none were able to identify a single instance in which they were involved where a single civilian fired more than 15 shots in self-defense. (Indeed, the record reflects that many law enforcement agencies, including the Colorado State Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the New York City Police Department equip their officers with 15-round or smaller magazines.) Anecdotal testimony from the Plaintiff’s lay witnesses was corroborative. Although they possessed large-capacity magazines, none had ever had the occasion to fire more than 15 rounds in an instance of self-defense.” On page 31 of the decision, she concluded, “At most, then, the statute’s burden on the exercise of self-defense is this: in the relatively rare circumstances in which sustained defensive fire is appropriate, the statute forces a brief pause to reload or access another weapon. The evidence presented does not establish that such circumstances occur frequently, affect very many, or that the pause to reload adversely affects one’s success in self-defense.
Krieger also cited a lack of evidence during the two week trial showing that requiring background checks under the new law infringed on the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights.
“While we respect the judge’s ruling today, we believe that it is plainly wrong on the law and on the facts,” Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said on the ColoradoGunCase.org website. “We will take this case to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and if necessary, to the United States Supreme Court. The [laws] are still unenforceable, and that is borne out in that there has not been one arrest on these two laws to date.”