It’s pretty rare when both sides of a gun-control debate — much less a lawsuit — walk away happy.
But that’s what happened recently, after parties who are tangled in a lawsuit over recently instituted Colorado gun laws came to an agreement on a couple of areas of contention.
The agreement was limited to clarifying language having to do with limits on gun ammunition magazines and whether gun owners could allow anyone besides themselves to handle those magazines.
The agreement had nothing to do with the meat that’s left in the lawsuit, which deals with whether the gun laws — which were passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper earlier this year — violate the Second Amendment.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Hickenlooper — which are made up of gun-rights groups that include 55 county sheriffs — were set to ask a federal judge on July 10 to block parts of the gun laws, specifically one that limits large-capacity ammunition magazines to 15 rounds.
But, the night before the hearing, the two sides ended up coming to an agreement that clarifies which magazines are banned under the law, and clears up confusion over issues pertaining to the temporary possession of gun magazines by someone besides the owner.
“We were ready for what we thought would be a big battle,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Dave Kopel. “As it turned out, 24 hours from the hearing, we had everything we were asking for.”
Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, had drafted memos outlining how the gun laws should be enforced. But the plaintiffs argued that the memos regarding the magazine limit law needed clarification.
The plaintiffs were concerned that the law banned magazines with removable baseplates, which are “designed to be readily converted” to hold more than 15 rounds. This, they were set to argue, could have ended up banning nearly all ammunition magazines.
The plaintiffs also were concerned that language in the law that requires gun owners to be in “continuous possession” of their magazines would essentially bar anyone else besides the gun owners from handling them.
The state's attorneys agreed to make technical language adjustments in the memos, clarifying that the laws do not affect magazines with baseplates and that “continuous possession” only means continuous gun ownership.
Because the two sides came to agreement on the fixes, a federal judge refused to grant an injunction that had been requested by the plaintiffs.
“That’s all we tried to solve and they were solved,” Kopel said. “We fixed a tremendous amount of real-life problems for citizens and law enforcement.”
Solicitor General Dan Domenico said the state had no problem addressing the technical fixes.
“In general, we’re very pleased with how things turned out,” he said. “We came to an agreement with the plaintiffs to clarify a few things that they’ve been concerned about, that are consistent with our interpretation of these statutes since before the governor signed them.”
Hickenlooper told reporters later that day that the lawyers “were trying to use common sense to figure out how, going forward, this would not a huge burden (on gun owners), but at the same time reasonable.”
“This is what was intended all the way along, to make sure there's no misunderstanding,” the governor said. “We're not trying to ban all these magazines ....”
What’s left of the lawsuit deals with Second Amendment issues. Kopel said the case is “likely going to trial,” which is expected to happen later this year.