DENVER — New limits on ammunition magazines will continue in Colorado while sheriffs seek to overturn the law in court after attorneys in the case said Wednesday they had agreed on some technical fixes in the meantime.
Attorneys for the sheriffs were in court seeking a preliminary injunction on the law that bans magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. But a federal judge in Denver said there was nothing for her to rule on because attorneys for the state and the sheriffs had hammered out an agreement late Tuesday.
The Attorney General's Office drafted clarifying language of the new law outlining which magazines will fall under the ban and both sides agreed to it, saying it had the force law.
"That being the case, there is nothing for this court to enjoin," said U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger in a swift hearing that lacked the intensity that has underscored the gun-control debate for almost a year here.
The law, passed after mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut, went into effect July 1, along with expanded background checks to include online and private firearm sales. The laws were major victories for Colorado Democrats, who rallied majorities in the House and Senate this spring to pass it without Republican support.
Sheriffs in 55 of Colorado's 64 counties filed a lawsuit in May, saying they violate the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms. Most of the sheriffs behind the lawsuit represent rural, gun-friendly parts of the state.
At issue Wednesday was the new magazine law. The lawsuit contends the statute lacks clarity because it bans magazines that are "designed to be readily converted" to hold more than 15 rounds.
Both sides agreed that magazines that have removable baseplates won't be considered part of ban and won't be seen as being adaptable to hold more rounds than what the law allows. Attorneys also agreed to clarifying language about what happens to larger magazines that were grandfathered in. People who temporarily hand a larger magazine to a shop owner, for example, won't be deemed to have lost "continuous possession" of it in violation of the law.
The agreement means both sides could focus on the larger issues of the lawsuit, attorneys said.
"Being able to agree to that, we hope will move things along, let us move on to discussing the Second Amendment aspects of this case in the future," said Dan Domenico, the solicitor general representing the state.
A trial date has not been set.
"We fixed two problems, two of the lesser problems on the bad law, and the core problem with the bad law is what we'll be going to trial about," said David Kopel, an attorney representing the sheriffs.
The sheriffs decided not to pursue a preliminary injunction for the expanded background checks, given the complexity of the new law and limited time at Wednesday's hearing. Kopel said it's more appropriate to address the background checks at trial.
Democrats argue both laws will improve public safety and are an appropriate response to the massacres at an Aurora movie theater last July and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.
"Over the months and years ahead, these high-capacity magazines, whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of people in seconds, will be gradually removed from our streets and neighborhoods," said Tom Mauser, whose son, Daniel, was killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.
As the gun debate moves along in the courts, lawmakers are dealing with the political ramifications. Two Democrats – Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron – face potential recall elections because they supported the laws.
There has never been a recall election for a Colorado state legislator.
Find Ivan Moreno on Twitter: http://twitter.com/IvanJourno
Also on HuffPost:
1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.
Sikh Temple Shooting
On August 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page opened fire on a Sikhs gathered at a temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding four more before turning the gun on himself.