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Crime and Courts

Colorado Supreme Court upholds state’s law banning large-capacity gun magazines

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a fierce gun rights organization based in Colorado, challenged the large-capacity magazine law. They argue that it violates the state constitution.

The Colorado Supreme Court and Colorado Court of Appeals. (Jeremy Martinez, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday upheld the state’s 7-year-old ban on gun magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition. 

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a hard-line gun rights organization based in Colorado, challenged the large-capacity magazine law, arguing that it violates the state constitution. 

Specifically, the organization contended that the law goes against a clause that gives people the right to be armed to defend their homes, property and themselves.

The Colorado Supreme Court, however, disagreed in a 45-page decision. 

Justice Monica M. Márquez, in writing the court’s opinion, said the ban is “a reasonable exercise of the police power that has neither the purpose nor effect of nullifying the right to bear arms in self-defense.”

MORE: Read the decision.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, whose office defended the law, praised the decision.

“The large-capacity magazine law will decrease the deadly impacts of mass shootings by reducing the number of people who will be shot during a mass shooting incident, and it will save lives,” the Democrat said in a written statement. “It also honors Coloradans’ right to bear arms for personal defense. Today’s ruling is a win for public safety and for the rule of law.”   

The law was passed a year after the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, which left 12 people dead and dozens more wounded. The gunman in that attack used a 100-round magazine. 

The policy was part of a package of bills passed in 2013 and signed into law by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, including legislation requiring a background check for every gun purchase in Colorado.

The ban on large-capacity magazines was likely the most controversial part of the package. The legislation prompted a magazine manufacturer, Magpul, to relocate its facilities out of the state. Two Democratic state senators were also recalled in the wake of the bill’s passage and a third resigned to avoid a recall.

Also, in June 2014, Hickenlooper met with Colorado’s county sheriffs and couched his support for the legislation in remarks that led to a political fiasco.

“One of my staff had committed us to signing it,” he told the sheriffs.

Hickenlooper now talks about the legislation passed in 2013 as part of his bid to become a U.S. senator.

MORE: Colorado gun stores still sell high-capacity magazines despite 2013 law banning them

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners has challenged other gun-control measures in Colorado in court.

In 2020, the Colorado legislature passed a so-called red flag law, which allows for judges to order the seizure of firearms from people they deem an imminent threat to themselves or others.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners sued challenging the process by which the law made its way through the legislature, but a Denver judge dismissed the case in May.

It wasn’t immediately clear Monday if Rocky Mountain Gun Owners would appeal the decision in the large-capacity magazine case in federal court. 

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