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Gun rights in Colorado: All or nothing?

Written By | Apr 26, 2015

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 26, 2015—As the 2015 legislative session draws to a close, there’s one more burning issue in the Republican-led effort to restore gun rights to Coloradans. At issue is a compromise what would raise the limit of rounds a magazine can hold from 15 to 30. Conservatives are split on whether to take the bait offered by Democrat Rep. Joe Salazar.

The background of this issue has become the stuff of legend. In 2013, the Democrat-controlled legislature passed five blatantly unconstitutional limits on Colorado citizens’ rights to keep and bear arms. Then enate president John Morse rammed the bills through on straight party-line votes with no meaningful debate.

READ: Gun rights make some progress in Colorado

Michael Bloomberg’s bill writers used the laws recently passed in New York as a model. They thought they were doing Coloradans a favor by raising the magazine capacity limit from 7 to 15 rounds. They were shocked to find out that Coloradans didn’t want any limits on our constitutional rights.

Worse, the magazine bill is not only unconstitutional but also unenforceable. Existing magazines are grandfathered, and there is no physical way to determine date of manufacture or purchase. Colorado sheriffs are on record saying they will not enforce the law.

This year the Republican-controlled Senate passed a repeal of the magazine ban—with some Democratic support. A similar bill was introduced in the house. Those bills, as well as other pro-Second Amendment legislation, were all killed in the Rep. Salazar’s house committee along party lines.

In the debate on the senate bill, Salazar seemed to offer a compromise. He would go for raising the limit to 30 rounds—thus making legal all those standard 30-round AR-16-style magazines and everything else in between.

Republicans didn’t bite.

The issue comes down to this: if you accept any limit on the size of magazines you implicitly agree with the right of the government to make a limit. Salazar, a lawyer, knows this. Then the only question is how many they will allow you to have. Sure, Republicans may regain control of the legislature and pass a full repeal. Then what? Will they remain in control forever?

Read Also:  Gun Rights and the 14th Amendment

The totalitarian left never gives up. They believe in their cause with religious fervor. They will come back and they will have the precedent on their side.

There are some who argue that half a loaf is better than none; that it’s progress. Pro-gun rights activist Laura Carno is one of those. In a recent opinion piece, she argues for an incremental approach—taking what we can get now, going for a full repeal later.

Carno is brilliant at the conservative appeal to emotion. She argues the potentially fatal consequences of someone’s not having enough rounds to defend herself in a life-and-death situation. But she is also wise enough to understand that the real issue is having the government decide for you how many rounds is enough.

She urges senate president Bill Cadman to introduce a bill in the last few days of the session to accept Salazar’s compromise.

On the other side is Dudley Brown of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. Brown is rude and crude—a bully who hammers everyone who disagrees with him, including (maybe especially) other gun rights groups. His message to those who want the compromise is “Shut your pie hole and go buy one [magazine].”

Fortunately, the correct principled answer doesn’t depend on the personalities involved.

The principle is simple and written into both the federal and the Colorado constitutions. No limits, period. Carno’s mistake is in arguing from the effects of the ban instead of from the principle—with which both she and Brown agree.

One can imagine Rep. Salazar sitting back and watching with delight as conservatives tear each other apart.

What is the proper remedy for this unconstitutional law, short of outright appeal? We’ve all been taught that the role of the courts is to strike it down. But today the courts don’t see their job that way and in tacit recognition of that fact no one has even taken the bill to the Colorado courts.

So what choice is left to the people, in whose name the state government supposedly rules? Short of outright revolution, civil disobedience. There is no duty to obey an unconstitutional law.

On April 19, 1775, 240 years ago almost exactly, our founders stood their ground when the Crown marched troops to seize arms and ammunition it claimed were in excess of what the colonists should have.

The militia of Lexington and Concord did not compromise. We do not either. Instead, we, like them, appeal to a higher law for the justice of our cause.

There can be no compromise on a fundamental, God-given natural right.


Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.