Sheriffs of 54 Colorado counties sued Governor John Hickenlooper, seeking to block state laws that ban ammunition magazines holding more than 15 rounds and require background checks for gun sales and loans.
The sheriffs, in a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Denver, said the ammunition law bans most magazines of any size in an attempt to prohibit those that can be converted to hold more than 15 rounds. They also alleged that compliance with the background checks will be practically impossible.
The effect of the ammunition law’s “various provisions is the widespread ban on functional firearms,” according to the complaint. “The prohibition of so many box and tube magazines of any size, and the prohibition of magazines greater than 15 rounds, directly and gravely harm the ability of law-abiding citizens to use firearms for lawful purposes, especially self-defense.”
The lawsuit is based on claims under the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms and due process. The sheriffs seek a court order that provisions of the laws are unconstitutional and can’t be enforced.
Lawmakers in Colorado, New York, Connecticut and Maryland passed laws limiting firearms ownership after 20 children and six educators were shot to death Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
At a news briefing following a private bill-signing ceremony March 20, Hickenlooper called on county sheriffs to carry out the new measures.
“I fully expect all of our sheriffs and chiefs of police to enforce the law to the best of their ability,” said the governor, a first-term Democrat.
Hickenlooper’s office referred a call seeking comment on the lawsuit to the state attorney general.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, said in a statement yesterday that he will defend against the suit to get “court rulings on the legality of various aspects of the legislation as expeditiously as possible.” He added that the state’s citizens and “law-abiding gun owners in particular, deserve such clarification.”
Colorado has 64 counties. One of the sheriffs suing Hickenlooper is Grayson Robinson of Arapahoe County, where a gunman killed 12 people and injured 70 in a July 20 shooting spree at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” at a theater in the city of Aurora.
The man charged in that case, James Eagan Holmes, went to local stores and Internet sites before the shooting to buy two Glock handguns, a shotgun, a rifle and 6,295 rounds of ammunition, according to county prosecutors. Lawyers for Holmes, who faces the death penalty if convicted, have told a judge he intends to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police endorsed the new firearms laws, which were introduced on Feb. 5 and approved by the Democrat-controlled legislature six weeks later, over protests from Republicans that they criminalized law-abiding citizens and did nothing to improve safety.
The case is Cooke v. Hickenlooper, 13-cv-01300, U.S. District Court, District of Colorado (Denver).