Thursday, June 26, 2014

Judge upholds Colorado's contentious gun laws

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 4:20 PM

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Today, the gun laws that led to the eventual recall of Colorado Springs state legislator John Morse were upheld by U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger, who found them constitutional.

Regarding the limit on 15-round magazines, Krieger wrote in her 50-page opinion, "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."

The whole thing is actually a fascinating read, and well worth the time. Bizarrely, it begins with a pretty clear argument that the plaintiffs actually don't really have standing to sue the state — meaning they can't show they're directly harmed by the law — but the court decided to take the case anyway.

Krieger touches on the argument that smaller magazines offer a "pause" for reloading, which often gives more victims time to escape, or time for law enforcement to intercede. As far as the argument that only law-abiding citizens will obey the limited law:

"Hypothetically, this may be true, but the Court declines to speculate about the subjective intentions and means of unspecified criminals involved in unspecified gun violence," the judge writes. "The Court accepts the unrebutted opinion of Dr. Zax, who testified that the magazine size restriction will reduce the overall number of large-capacity magazines available in Colorado and his testimony about the effects of federal firearms regulation in Virginia."

Multiple times, Krieger writes that it's not her job to consider whether or not the legislation was a good idea — or "'good' or 'bad,' 'wise' or 'unwise,' 'sound policy' or a 'hastily-considered overreaction'" — and says it again in her final opinion on the magazine limit.

"Whether adoption of a fifteen-round magazine limit is a sound public policy or a perfect fit with the General Assembly’s objective to improve public safety is not the question before this Court," she writes. "The fit may not be perfect, but the evidence establishes ... the provisions of § 18-12-302 are permissible under the Second Amendment."

As far as the mandatory background checks, which include a variety of situations where firearms are loaned, Krieger writes: 

"Contrary to the Plaintiffs’ position, however, the burden imposed on the right is no more severe than the law already provides with regard to firearm sales. ... Nothing in the Second Amendment can be read to suggest that a permissible  burden on commercial sales of firearms cannot similarly be extended to apply to those acquiring firearms by loan."

Reactions are predictable, with Colorado Attorney John Suthers — who's looking at possible run for Colorado Springs mayor — winning the day for his jab: “Like Judge Krieger, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office has never asserted that the laws in question are good, wise or sound policy," he says in the release. "As it does in all cases, the AG’s Office has fulfilled its responsibility to defend the constitutionality of the Colorado law in question."

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