Guns and Gear

Colorado’s new gun control laws proving difficult to enforce

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Colorado’s new gun laws limiting the size of ammunition magazines and requiring background checks aren’t resulting in a rash of criminal charges.

In fact, in at least one Colorado county, the new laws haven’t resulted in a single case. The Colorado State Patrol also said it wasn’t aware of its troopers citing anyone for violations.

“I’m not surprised, based upon the way the laws were written,” Larimer County District Attorney Cliff Riedel told the Fort Collins Coloradoan. “The ability to prove the required elements is very difficult.”

Buying, selling or giving away an ammunition magazine that can hold more than 15 rounds has been illegal since the new law went into effect on July 1, but the most tangible result has been that Coloradans have traveled to gun stores in neighboring states to buy the equipment.

“It’s been good for our store,” Ray Allen, the owner of Frontier Arms in Cheyenne, told the paper.

Most of Colorado’s county sheriffs are opposed to the laws, which they say trample on Second Amendment rights in addition to being too difficult to enforce. Since gun owners could keep standard sized 30-round magazines that they owned before July 1, it’s impossible to tell where or when they were purchased.

Likewise, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith told the Coloradoan that it’s equally impossible to bust someone for not conducting a background check when selling a gun privately.

“There’s no way to know,” he said. “So how are police going to get involved in a private transaction in someone’s home with a legal piece of property? Obviously, they’re not.”

But Democratic Rep. Randy Fischer, who supported the new laws, said cops could set up sting operations in which they try to buy firearms from private sellers to see if the seller pays for a background check.

That’s not being done because law enforcement agencies are not expending the resources to enforce either law, Democratic Rep. Jessie Ulibarri told the paper.

“Which is unfortunate, because the laws were designed to protect our kids and our communities,” he said.

More than 6,000 background checks were done for private sales from July-December, the Denver Post reported, with 122 people failing to pass. Overall, Colorado performed more background checks for retail and private sales than ever in 2013, a total of nearly 400,000, with 7,351 being denied.

Despite not having resulted in any reported criminal charges, the new laws have had huge impact otherwise. They are the subject of a lawsuit to have them overturned and they were the impetus behind two successful recalls of Democratic state senators who supported them. A third lawmaker resigned rather than face a recall election. The laws were also among the reasons 10 Colorado counties considered seceding and forming their own state.

And Magpul Industries, a Boulder County company that makes 30-round magazines and other equipment is moving operations to Texas and Wyoming because of the laws.

The new gun laws, which were passed in Colorado’s Democratic-controlled state legislature and signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is seeking re-election, are expected to play a prominent role in upcoming political campaigns.

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