Colo. sheriffs clarify new gun laws |

Colo. sheriffs clarify new gun laws

Reid Tulley

Law-abiding gun owners can take a breath as plaintiffs in a court case trying to block enforcement of the new Colorado gun laws declared a victory on Tuesday night.

A compromise was struck between the two sides to clarify the law banning magazines holding more than 15 rounds.

The clarification specifically addressed the “grandfather clause” of the law, which allows for individuals to posses magazines that hold 15 rounds or more if they were in the owner’s possession before the law went into effect July 1, as well as the meaning of a magazine that can be readily converted to hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition.

While the plaintiffs in the case — 54 out of the 64 sheriffs in Colorado and a number of gun rights advocacy groups — claimed victory, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger chose not to issue the preliminary injunction that was requested by the plaintiffs, which would have blocked enforcement of the law.

The plaintiffs sued Gov. John Hickenlooper in May, after he signed bills to require background checks for private gun sales and to ban the sale of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition.

While the lawsuit seeks to overturn both laws, the issues in question on Tuesday were the lack of clarity regarding the law banning high capacity magazines.

The law was rewritten by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to clarify what the definition of “continuous possession” of high capacity magazines stated under the law as well as what the definition of a magazine that could be “readily converted” to hold more than 15 rounds.

The law was reformulated to read that continuous possession no longer exists when an owner of a high capacity magazine when he or she “voluntarily relinquishes dominion,” according to Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson, who is one of the sheriffs involved with the lawsuit.

The clarification means the owner of a high-capacity magazine does not lose possession unless ownership of the magazine is relinquished.

Johnson provided an example, if someone were to take a pistol with a high capacity magazine to a gunsmith for repairs, he would still have dominion over the gun and magazine, making it legal for the gun’s owner and gunsmith to transfer the weapon without breaking the law.

The plaintiffs in the case claimed the way the law was previously worded would have made it illegal to transfer that magazine to someone else, even if the magazine’s owner was not relinquishing possession.

Johnson also discussed issues that arose with pawn shop owners in Colorado, where someone had pawned a gun and high capacity magazine before the law went into effect and, under the new laws, the pawn broker was unable to return the weapon to the owner as the transfer of high capacity magazines was outlawed.

Plaintiffs in the case also disagreed with the definition of magazines that can be readily converted to hold more than 15 rounds and achieved clarification on the subject with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, who changed the language in the law to read if a magazine does not hold 15 rounds or more at the time, or is not designed to be readily converted to a higher capacity, it does not fall into the high capacity category.

“This was a good victory for us,” Johnson said. “It is a good victory for the public as well.”

The lawsuit is ongoing and will now make the move to the bigger issue at stake: Whether the new laws impede on 2nd Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.

Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

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