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ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 14:  Billy Bitting Jr., 11, handles a SIG Sauer SIG556 semi-automatic rifle during the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits April 14, 2012 at America ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 14: Billy Bitting Jr., 11, handles a SIG Sauer SIG556 semi-automatic rifle during the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits April 14, 2012 at America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri. More than 60,000 people are expected to attend the convention, which runs through Sunday. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)  

Colorado Gun Laws Upheld As Constitutional

Greg Campbell
Contributor

A federal judge upheld Colorado’s controversial new gun control laws Thursday, ruling that limits to the size of ammunition magazines and requirements for universal background checks are not unconstitutional.

In her 50-page written ruling, U.S. District Chief Judge Marcia Krieger took pains to note that her ruling wasn’t an “opinion as to whether a law is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ ‘wise’ or ‘unwise,’ ‘sound policy’ or a ‘hastily-considered overreaction,’” but merely a ruling on its constitutionality.

“A law may be constitutional, but nevertheless foolish, ineffective, or cumbersome to enforce,” she wrote.

In her ruling, Krieger wrote that the plaintiffs — which included Colorado sheriffs acting in private capacity, several gun-rights and/or shooting organizations and firearms-parts businesses — could not prove that the ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds would prohibit gun owners from adequately defending themselves.

“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,” Kreiger wrote.

The three examples included a gun store owner defending against a robbery by firing more than 100 rounds from two fully automatic weapons, a watch store owner firing more than 15 rounds from more than one semiautomatic handgun, and jewelry store owners who got into a shootout with potential robbers defending themselves with several revolvers.

“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,” Kreiger wrote.

Krieger also cited a lack of evidence during the two week trial showing that requiring background checks under the new law infringed on any of the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights, noting that one witness who testified moved to Georgia and doesn’t plan to return to Colorado.

Another installs scopes and sights on customers’ firearms and sometimes keeps the weapons for longer than 72 hours, the grace period before which a background check is needed to make the transfer legal.

But the judge wrote that it was unclear if the plaintiff needed to keep the weapons longer than 72 hours due to necessity or out of convenience. Regardless, she wrote, there was very little threat of prosecution if it’s the former.

In fact, no one has been arrested or prosecuted under either law, which is among the reasons most of the state’s elected sheriffs opposed them the first place. Several, including Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, have flatly said they wouldn’t enforce them.

“While we respect the judge’s ruling today, we believe that it is plainly wrong on the law and on the facts,” Cooke said at a press conference Thursday, as reported by the Denver Post.

“[The laws] are still unenforceable,” he said. “And that is borne out in that there has not been one arrest on these two laws to date.”

The Post reported that the plaintiffs will open a new legal challenge in the 10th Circuit.

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