DENVER – Republicans controlling a Senate committee on Monday passed a measure that would repeal the state’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The hearing focused on magazines of more than 15 rounds, which Democrats banned when they controlled both legislative chambers in 2013.
Debate was expected to last into the evening, but testimony finished early, allowing lawmakers to take a vote, which passed on a 3-2 party-line tally.
Republicans are likely to push the measure through the Senate, where they control the chamber and have the support of four Democrats. But the bill is unlikely to make it through the House, where Democrats sit in the majority and are considering sending the measure to an unfavorable committee.
The debate on Monday once again fell back to whether the law is enforceable.
County sheriffs point out that the language of the law makes it difficult to determine who is allowed to possess high-capacity ammunition magazines since law enforcement is required to determine what is “continuous possession,” a provision of the measure that they say is undefined.
Sheriffs also say they do not know what constitutes a high-capacity ammunition magazine since ordinary magazines can be easily converted.
“I have not seen any effect, one way or the other; it has done nothing to reduce crime,” said Sheriff Mike McIntosh, the sheriff of Adams County, who represented the County Sheriffs of Colorado.
An attorney for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a gun-rights group with political clout, said the law effectively made most magazines illegal because of its broad language.
“The way this law works is it’s an absolute prohibition on ammunition-feed devices for firearms,” James Bardwell said. “The effect of this is limited because the law allows people to keep the magazines they held as of the date the law was enacted, and because magazines are not otherwise regulated or restricted, there’s no way to tell when somebody procured them.”
The issue boiled over in 2013 when two Senate Democrats were recalled from office after supporting gun-control laws. A third Senate Democrat resigned in the face of a separate recall effort.
But gun-control supporters say the Legislature did the right thing to ban high-capacity magazines. In addition to the ban, lawmakers also required background checks for private sales and transfers of firearms.
Eileen McCarron, with gun-control advocates Colorado Ceasefire, pointed to mass shootings in 2012 at an Aurora movie theater and at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school.
She suggested that limiting magazines could lead to less bloodshed when such horrific incidents occur.
“Even untrained shooters can fire off a large number of bullets in a short period of time, leaving a swath of carnage,” McCarron said. “Run from this bill.”