By RON BAIN
DELTA – The devil is in the details.
That’s the legal approach outlined by Second Amendment expert and attorney David Kopel, director of the Independence Institute’s Second Amendment Project, as he prepares a court challenge to Colorado’s new gun control laws on behalf of 55 county sheriffs and other plaintiffs who have joined the lawsuit.
Kopel appeared before a crowd of about 200 gun rights supporters at the Delta County Center for the Performing Arts on June 13. He was accompanied by five county sheriffs, including Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee, Montrose County Sheriff Rick Dunlap, Ouray County Sheriff Junior Mattivi, Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell and Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, as well as Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, who introduced him.
“There is no one better to lead this fight for liberty than Dave Kopel,” Caldara said.
Rather than attack the new laws, which include universal background checks for all firearm transfers and a ban on magazines holding more than 15 rounds, with a broad argument that they are unconstitutional, Kopel said he would focus on details such as women’s and disabled people’s rights to self-defense and the unenforceability of the laws.
“What we’ve done is try to frame our arguments as narrowly as we can,” Kopel said.
For example, disabled people cannot retreat as fast from an attack and find it “close to impossible” to change magazines or reload quickly, so Kopel is arguing that the gun control laws violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Kopel said he had filed a motion asking for a preliminary injunction to prevent the magazine ban from taking effect on July 1. Because the law bans all magazines “designed to be readily converted,” it effectively bans all magazines because “it’s generally possible to put on an extender,” he said.
Law enforcement personnel often carry high-capacity magazines, not because they’re soldiers on a battlefield, but “to protect human life… from violent criminals,” Kopel said. “Law-abiding citizens ought to have that choice for the same reasons, for lawful protection of human life.”
The background check law limits the fee that can be charged by federally licensed firearms dealers (the only ones who can perform the background checks) to $10, which is not enough to cover the staff time required to fill out the two-and-a-half page Bureau of Alcohol, Tobbaco and Firearms form, Kopel said, so there are no firearms dealers willing to perform the required background checks.
That violates the 14th Amendment’s “due process of law” clause, which has been interpreted by courts to mean that laws have to be “understandable and doable, not impossible,” Kopel, who also serves as a University of Denver law professor, said.
“People don’t know what is legal and what is not,” he said.
The majority of Colorado’s sheriffs who brought the lawsuit against the state are deserving of gratitude, Kopel concluded.
“The sheriffs have been vilified by the press,” he said. “They are standing up for the Constitutional public safety and the rule of law.”
Caldara said one good thing had come out of the passage of the gun control laws: opposition to the laws has unified Colorado’s conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers and libertarians.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Caldara said. “I’ve never been more proud of our team.”
Monday there will be a hearing in Denver before federal judge Marsha Krieger on the motion for a preliminary injunction against the magazine ban.