On Thursday, a federal judge upheld Colorado's new gun-control laws that mandate background checks for all gun sales and limit magazine capacity to 15 rounds. U.S. District Chief Judge Marcia Krieger issued her 50-page ruling on the 2013 laws after a two-week civil trial in late March and early April in Denver.
The lawsuit was originally filed by plaintiffs including sheriffs, gun shops, outfitters, and shooting ranges. Krieger ruled last year that the sheriffs could not sue the state in their official capacities but they could join the lawsuit as private citizens.
In her ruling, Judge Krieger (who was appointed to the position in 2001 by then-President George W. Bush) made clear from the beginning that she wasn’t going to rule on whether or not the new laws made sense:
A court does not act as a super-legislature to determine the wisdom or workability of legislation. Instead, it determines only whether legislation is constitutionally permissible....
The judge just only compares the public policy adopted by the legislature against the constitutional minimums that protect individual rights....
This Court will not express a qualitative opinion as to whether a law is “good” or “bad,” “wise” or “unwise,” “sound policy” or a “hastily-considered overreaction.”
After determining that most of the plaintiffs had standing to sue, she focused her attention on the impact that limiting magazine capacities would have on both criminal shooters and law-abiding citizens:
Plaintiffs argue that by limiting magazines to 15 rounds or less, this statute impairs an individual’s Second Amendment “right of self-defense.” Colorado reflexively responds that because people can still defend themselves, no Second Amendment right is impaired.
She then notes that the offending laws do not directly regulate firearms at all, but only the size of the magazines that feed them:
Because [the magazine limit law] regulates only the number of rounds in a magazine, it does not affect whether the semiautomatic firearm can be used, or even whether it can be used in a semiautomatic mode. It only affects how often it must be reloaded.
She said the scope of the law is universal but its impact is not severe enough to render it unconstitutional:
This ban applies to every person in Colorado, in every venue, and for every use, including self-defense inside and outside of the home.
It impacts a large number of semiautomatic firearms, both handguns and rifles. Viewed in this light, the scope of the statute is broad, and it touches the core of an individual right guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
But because its impact on that right is so minor, the judge said, she overlooked it as any kind of impediment to the government’s overriding interest in “public safety”:
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