Two Colorado towns hit with federal lawsuits over new gun control rules

A federal judge has already granted an injunction blocking the town of Superior, Colorado’s new ban on so-called assault weapons, but that hasn’t stopped a number of other communities in the state from imposing their own similar restrictions in recent weeks. Now the towns of Boulder and Louisville (as well as Boulder County) have been slapped with lawsuits over their ban on modern sporting rifles and “large capacity” magazines. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the National Foundation for Gun Rights filed their suits in U.S. District Court on Thursday, arguing that the new gun control measures violate the Second Amendment rights of residents and should be tossed out by the courts.

Taylor Rhodes, executive director of the group, said in a statement that “it doesn’t matter how big or how small the localities are — if you pass unconstitutional gun control, we will sue you.”

The gun rights organizations contend in part that millions of citizens own the now-banned rifles and magazines that can store more than a 10-round limit imposed both by Boulder and by Louisville in July — and that they are entitled to possess, sell or transfer them legally under their 2nd Amendment rights.

Shannon Aulabaugh, a spokesperson for the City of Boulder, said Thursday the city does not comment on pending litigation.

A spokesperson for Louisville couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The gun bans in the cities of Boulder and Louisville’s include a prohibition on the possession of modern sporting rifles, while the ban imposed in Boulder County is slightly more limited in scope; banning the sale and transfer of the long guns but not explicitly banning their possession. Given that the city-imposed bans are almost identical to the ban in Superior that’s been blocked by a federal judge, I’d say the odds are good that the more recent bans in Boulder and Louisville are going to be enjoined as well. What about the Boulder County ban? County officials released a statement on Thursday expressing confidence that their laws will be upheld.

“Gun violence poses a grave public safety threat in Boulder County,” the statement read. “On Aug. 2, the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners adopted five ordinances designed to prevent gun violence. One of those ordinances prohibited the sale and purchase of assault weapons, large capacity magazines, and trigger activators.  The county learned today that a group filed a lawsuit challenging that ordinance. Boulder County will defend against the lawsuit and demonstrate that the assault weapons ordinance is constitutionally sound.”

I’m curious to see how exactly the county plans on doing that, given that the type of ban imposed by Boulder County doesn’t really have any sort of historical analogue that officials can point to in their defense. While the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled specifically on the constitutionality of a ban on modern sporting rifles, the Court has said that guns that are in common use for a variety of lawful purposes are generally protected by the Second Amendment, and that would certainly apply to semi-automatic rifles. The county may be hoping that, since their ordinance doesn’t ban the possession of these arms that it’s not truly a ban, but I don’t think that will fly. If these items are protected by the Constitution it doesn’t really matter whether or not the ban extends to those who currently own these firearms or is limited only to people who want to purchase one in the future.

Not only do the test, history, and tradition of our right to keep and bear arms cut against these gun bans; data from one nearby city that imposed a ban on so-called assault weapons years ago shows that these laws have no impact on violent crime. Denver has had a ban on modern sporting rifles in place since 1989, but the city’s violent crime rate has exploded over the past decade. Despite the city’s gun ban and state-level laws requiring background checks on all firearm transfers and banning magazines that can hold more than 15-rounds, criminals are still getting their hands on guns. In fact, 35% of murder suspects this year were either  on parole, probation or pre-trial supervision at the time of their alleged homicide. The Denver area definitely has a crime problem, but it won’t be addressed by infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. Officials need to get tough on violent criminals instead of cracking down on the right of armed self-defense.