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Gov. Jared Polis signs Senate Bill 169 into law on April 28, 2023, which raises the minimum age to 21 to purchase firearms, and makes it illegal to sell a gun to someone younger than 21. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)
Story first appeared in The Unaffiliated

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is seeking an expedited reversal of a federal judge’s ruling last week temporarily blocking enforcement of a new state law barring anyone younger than 21 from purchasing a firearm.

Lawyers for Polis asked Chief U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer to stay — or postpone — his preliminary injunction against the law, Senate Bill 169, until the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides an appeal to the ruling.

“The court’s preliminary injunction allows high school- and college-aged students to purchase firearms that they otherwise would be ineligible to buy,” Polis’ attorneys wrote in a motion. “With the school year about to commence, the governor seeks to obtain an answer on his request for stay — from this court, the 10th Circuit, or both— before students return to the classroom.”

The motion said Senate Bill 169 is a “critical component of Colorado’s broader effort to combat gun violence, teen suicide and mass shootings.”

“Colorado is suffering, and will continue to suffer, irreparable injury each day that SB23-169 remains preliminarily enjoined,” the motion said.

From Aug. 5 to Aug. 10, 54 Coloradans between the ages of 18 and 20 purchased guns, according to the state.

Brimmer’s preliminary injunction, temporarily halting enforcement of the bill, came in response to a lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 169 filed by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a hard-line gun rights group based in Colorado. 

The bill was passed by Democrats in the legislature this year and signed into law in April by Polis. It was supposed to go into effect last week.

The law raised the minimum age to purchase any firearm in Colorado to 21. The new law also makes it illegal to sell any gun to someone younger than 21. 

It was already illegal under federal law for people under 21 to purchase handguns, though there’s an ongoing court challenge to that statute.  

The new law made it a Class 2 misdemeanor to buy a gun if you are younger than 21 or for a private dealer to sell a firearm to someone who is younger than 21. Licensed dealers who sell to someone younger than 21 could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. 

The law has exceptions for members of the military and law enforcement.

Polis asked Brimmer to force RMGO to respond to his request for a stay within four days, rather than the default 21 days. Brimmer granted the request, meaning RMGO must respond before the middle of this week.

Brimmer could decide on the governor’s request before the end of the week.

In arguing in favor of the stay, the governor’s lawyers said Brimmer “gave too little weight to the historical analogues identified by the governor from the time of the 14th Amendment’s ratification” in issuing his preliminary injunction.

In its defense against the RMGO lawsuit, the governor’s office had argued that Senate Bill 169 didn’t violate the Second Amendment because there have been age limits for firearm purchases throughout the nation’s history.

If Brimmer doesn’t grant the stay and Polis loses on appeal, the preliminary injunction could remain in place until RMGO’s lawsuit is resolved, which could take years. It’s unclear how long the appellate process may take.

Senate Bill 169 was among four gun control measures passed by Democrats at the Capitol this year and signed into law by Polis in the biggest rewrite of Colorado’s firearm statutes in at least a decade.

RMGO is also challenging House Bill 1219, which imposes a three-day waiting period on all Colorado gun purchases. Brimmer declined to temporarily halt enforcement of that measure, however. 

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....