Despite ongoing lawsuits, Colorado activists demand sweeping carry ban

(AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)

Gun control activists in Longmont, Colorado showed up at this week’s city council meeting to demand the town approve sweeping bans on the lawful sale, possession, and carrying of firearms, despite the fact that similar local laws imposed at the county level are already facing a legal challenge and have been put on ice, at least temporarily, because of their questionable constitutionality.

Of course, anti-gunners aren’t going to let a little thing like the Constitution or the threat of litigation stop them from clearly infringing on the rights of residents, at least if they can get their local officials to play along.

A former city councilor and a resident Tuesday night challenged the city council to pass gun control measures that they say will save lives.

“We have the right… to go to movies and go grocery shopping without being murdered,” former councilor Polly Christensen told the city council. “If the city council can ban smoking from downtown, the city council can ban guns from downtown.”

Well no, Polly. Last time I checked smoking wasn’t a right, unlike keeping and bearing arms (though whether or not cities should be able to tell private property owners whether or not they can allow smoking is another issue entirely). And preventing law-abiding citizens from exercising their right to armed self-defense isn’t going to stop a single murder at a grocery store or a movie. It’s just going to make it impossible for them to protect themselves from a determined killer who doesn’t give a crap about the fact that he’s violating a “gun-free zone.”

Christensen said only Mayor Joan Peck has supported a gun ban in the city. “Have the courage to do the same and back a gun violence…ordinance.” Christensen’s comments came during the public invited to be heard portion of a city council study session.

Councilors have said an ordinance would not be effective since Longmont residents would go to communities with no gun laws on the books to buy guns. Councilor Tim Waters said a more comprehensive approach to limiting gun violence is needed, including community conversations.

To be fair, I don’t know that “community conversations” are going to be of much use in terms of fighting violent crime either, but at least that won’t infringe on anybody’s fundamental civil rights.

Longmont city council members have been considering a number of local ordinances aimed at legal gun owners for several months, but have so far declined to pull the trigger and enact any of them into law, likely because other Boulder County ordinances enacted after the Supreme Court’s decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen have been put on hold by a federal judge while they’re being litigated. I’d say the vast majority of the local gun control laws under consideration would meet the same end if the Longmont city council does move forward.

  • Banning the open carrying of weapons in the city.
  • Enforcing a 10-day waiting period after the purchase of a firearm.
  • Being 21-years-of-age before the purchase of any firearm.
  • Prohibiting the sale of unserialized firearms or “ghost guns.”
  • Signage on buildings reminding people about an open carry ban.

A blanket ban on open carry might survive a court challenge as long as there were no similar restrictions on concealed carry. A 10-day waiting period seems less likely to withstand court scrutiny, but it’s also completely ineffective from a practical standpoint since most gun-buyers would simply choose not to purchase their next firearm in Longmont. A ban on gun sales to adults under 21-years of age also seems unlikely to stick, given that we’ve already seen federal judges declare that under-21s possess the right to bear arms.

As for the proposed ban on the sale of unserialized firearms, it’s already illegal under federal law to sell a firearm that does not have a serial number, though it’s perfectly legal to build your own unserialized gun as long as it doesn’t enter the stream of commerce. And another federal judge, this one in Delaware, recently stopped enforcement of several provisions of Delaware’s new restrictions on so-called ghost guns. including a ban on building or possessing them.

Judge Maryellen Noreika denied a motion by Democratic state Attorney General Kathleen Jennings, the sole defendant, to dismiss the lawsuit. She instead granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiffs to prohibit enforcement of certain provisions pending resolution of the lawsuit.

The judge wrote that without an injunction, the plaintiffs would “face irreparable harm … because they are threatened by criminal penalties should they engage in conduct protected by the Second Amendment.”

While declining to issue a permanent injunction, Noreika said that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their arguments that a ban on possessing homemade guns violates the Second Amendment, and that the prohibition on manufacturing untraceable firearms is also likely unconstitutional.

The one measure that could plausibly withstand constitutional scrutiny would be the proposed ban on open carry, but even if that were upheld it wouldn’t stop any violent criminal or mass shooting plotter from carrying out their malicious plans.

For now, at least, Longmont city council members appear willing to reject the demands of local anti-gun activists, which is good. I’d be happier if most of those city council members were basing their objections on an unwillingness to infringe on the rights of residents instead of hesitation over being sued, but as long as these proposed ordinances remain bad ideas instead of bad laws I think we can call that a win.