When the 2013 Colorado Legislature passed a suite of laws addressing gun ownership, the consequences were swift, severe and disproportionate to the very reasonable curbs embodied in the four measures. The bills triggered two successful recall efforts, a failed attempt to oust Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, an avalanche of vehement rhetoric about the constitutional implications of the legislation, and at least one lawsuit against the measures limiting magazine sizes to 15 rounds and requiring background checks for virtually all gun purchases and transfers. A federal judge last month rightly ruled that these laws do, in fact, pass constitutional muster, despite plaintiffs’ claims otherwise.
A lengthy list of gun dealers, gun clubs, gun-rights groups and county sheriffs brought the lawsuit claiming that the magazine and background-check laws violated the Second and Fourteenth amendments, respectively. Federal Judge Marcia Kreiger limited herself to those questions: “In determining whether a law is constitutional, this decision does not determine whether either law is ‘good,’ only whether it is constitutionally permissible,” Kreiger wrote. She found the laws to be so and she is correct – though this will surely not be the last we hear on the matter.
Kreiger’s ruling referenced the 2008 Supreme Court decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller wherein the Court interpreted the Second Amendment as applying to individual gun-ownership rights, not just those of “well-regulated militias.” That landmark case was tempered by critical language, though: “the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever for whatever purpose.” Using that backdrop, Kreiger proceeds to consider whether the Colorado measures are in line with what the Constitution allows, under the Supreme Court’s interpretation. She finds that they are, indeed, reasonable.
Surely the plaintiffs in the case will not rest with Kreiger’s ruling, and the constitutional question will be asked again. They are promising to take the matter to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court. That is unfortunate given the very limited and clear provisions that the laws contain. For those opposed to the measures, though, any restriction whatsoever is undue and burdensome. That simply is neither the intent nor the reality of the Constitution and its protections. Nevertheless, the plaintiffs are within their rights to push the question through the courts to test the parameters of those protections. Both sides of the equation, and the math that balances them, are reasons to celebrate this Independence Day.