Colorado Follows New York

March 20th, 2013

Colorado Governor Hickenlooper has signed all three of the gun-control laws that landed on his desk. The first consequence will be the imminent departure of Magpul Industries from the state. From their FaceBook page:

We have said all along that based on the legal problems and uncertainties in the bill, as well as general principle, we will have no choice but to leave if the Governor signs this into law. We will start our transition out of the state almost immediately, and we will prioritize moving magazine manufacturing operations first.

The bill to which they're responding is HB 1224 [pdf], which bans all large-capacity magazines.  As defined in the bill:

"Large-Capacity Magazine" means: a fixed or detachable magazine, box, drum, feed strip, or similar device capable of accepting, or that can be readily converted to accept, more than fifteen rounds of ammunition or more than five shotgun shells.

Pump shotguns are excepted so long as the tubular magazine does not exceed a capacity of 28 inches. That's a capacity of 8 3.5" shells. It's worth mentioning that Republican lawmakers tacitly accepted this as it doesn't ban "common shotguns."

The problem is, Colorado's ban on "high capacity" magazines bans all removable magazines.

At issue is the wording "readily converted to accept." Most magazines can be converted in some way to accept more rounds than originally designed. Furthermore, what's the difference between a 10-round .50 Beowulf magazine and a 30-round .223 magazine? Semantics. They're the same thing.

Bill sponsor Rhonda Fields was apparently unaware of this when she helped draft the legislation. When it was pointed out to her, she replied,

I’m just hearing about that now. Our focus was on the number of bullets you can put in a magazine. (…) I’m not envisioning changing that because of a little plate that you can pull out. I’m hoping that people will just comply with the law.

Um, yeah…nope. Criminals, by definition, do not obey the law. This bill will have no effect on them.

On the other hand, it will turn law-abiding citizens into criminals. How is law enforcement supposed to differentiate between unserialized "pre ban" magazines and unserialized magazines purchased in another state yesterday? They can't, and they're going to assume the latter in many cases.

So, what now? There's some talk about ballot initiatives and recalls, but those aren't going to be very successful when they're being presented to the same legislature that passed this law in the first place. A legal challenge seems inevitable, but the lawsuits against New York's similar SAFE Act are taking front and center for the time being.

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