Nearly Half Of Colorado’s Sheriffs Take A Stand Against High-Capacity Magazine Ban

June 7, 2019
Photo: Guns, Assault Rifles, AR-15 (AP)
Researchers suggest that new, more powerful weapons are part of the reason gunshot wounds are more deadly. Above, a newly assembled AR-15 rifle at Stag Arms in New Britain, Conn.

Thirty Colorado sheriffs say the state's supreme court should overturn a law that limits how much ammunition gun magazines can hold.

The magazine ban was enacted in the wake of the Aurora theater shooting and signed by former-Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The sheriffs made their case in a so-called "friend of the court" filing to a case challenging the constitutionality of the law. The 2013 law banned the sale, transfer or possession of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the National Association for Gun Rights sued in response. State district courts ruled the law was constitutional. In 2018, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld that decision saying the statue was reasonable for the protection of public health and safety.

The Colorado Supreme Court in April agreed to hear an appeal challenging that ruling.

A pause on a similar ban in California earlier in 2019 led to what some say were millions of such magazines being brought into that state. A judge later reinstituted the ban and said owners of them could have them while the case unfolded.

Hickenlooper has called the law hard to enforce in the past. Some sheriffs around the state have even decided they won't enforce the ban.

The 30 sheriffs who signed onto the court filing this week — nearly half of all of them in Colorado — say people should be able to have the same magazines that police can have.

The attorney representing the sheriffs in the filing is Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank. He told CPR in April that the way the statute is written could be seen as a violation of gun owners’ Second Amendment rights.

"A reasonableness standard allows for regulation of standard magazines, but not prohibition," the sheriffs say in their filing. "Prohibition is based on the false premises that standard magazines have no legitimate uses, and that their elimination has no effect on lawful self-defense."

The sheriffs said when people have less reserve ammunition, they fire fewer shots in self-defense, which may increase the chance that they will be injured.

"Sheriffs and deputies possess standard capacity magazines — up to about 20 rounds for handguns, and 30 rounds for rifles — for the same reason that law-abiding citizens should: they are best for lawful defense of self and others."

Kopel was the lead lawyer in a federal lawsuit challenging the ban — which is different from lawsuit to be heard by the Colorado Supreme Court. In that case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit decided it did not have jurisdiction because the plaintiffs did not have the standing to sue.

Defenders of the law say banning the magazines could help prevent those who commit mass shootings from killing more people.

Arguments in the case have not been scheduled.