Summit County sheriff calls new gun law ‘unenforceable’
Ryan Summerlin March 21, 2013
BRECKENRIDGE – Sitting in his office in the Summit County Justice Center, Sheriff John Minor holds out a seven-round magazine.
“Tell me when that was manufactured,” he says, indicating the exterior of the magazine, which is devoid of serial numbers or manufacture dates. The same is true of high-capacity magazines, he says.
House Bill 1224, part of a package of bills Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law Wednesday morning, makes it illegal to possess a magazine capable of carrying more than 15 rounds that was made after July 1 of this year. It does not, however, make it easier to tell the difference.
“The way this bill is written, it cannot be enforced,” Minor said. “This law, in my mind, was deliberately written to be unenforceable. It is a stepping stone to enact further restriction down the road. It is a game. Everyone is being played.”
Hickenlooper signed three bills revising Colorado’s regulation of firearms Wednesday morning, as the measures’ sponsors and family members of victims of high-profile mass shootings watched. One requires universal background checks for the purchase of firearms, including private and online sales, another ups the fee for the mandatory checks.
“This is a fairly significant set of bills that we signed today,” Hickenlooper acknowledged.
But it is HB 1224 that is under heavy fire.
Republicans, the National Rifle Association and the sheriffs of Colorado’s 64 counties have adamantly and vocally opposed the legislation. Some top cops have flat out refused to enforce the new law. Minor says he can’t.
Dubbing the bill vague, he questioned how law enforcement is to keep up with nuances of the measure. HB 1224 bans high-capacity magazines, but grandfathers in those purchased or made before July 1 of this year, so long as the owner maintains continuous possession.
But Minor said it will be impossible for authorities to determine if the device has been out of the owner’s hands or manufactured after this summer’s deadline.
Hickenlooper, however, disagreed.
“We do not believe a reasonable interpretation of the law means that a person must maintain continuous ‘physical’ possession of these items,” the governor stated Wednesday afternoon. “We are confident that law enforcement and the courts will interpret the statute so as to effectuate the lawful use and care of these devises.”
He said the measure should be narrowly applied so as not to infringe on the Second Amendment.
The bills became law less than 24 hours after the chief of the Colorado Department of Corrections was shot and killed in his Monument home and eight months to the day after 12 people were murdered by a well-armed shooter in an Aurora movie theater.
“My brother was killed by a person with a hundred-round magazine,” said Megan Sullivan, the sister of Alex Sullivan, a victim of the theater shooting in July. “He didn’t have a chance.”
Firearms don’t tend to be a significant problem in Summit County. Homicides are rare only one of the handful of murders in recent years involved a gun. Of the six suicides in Summit County last year, only one died of a gunshot wound.
The Denver Post contributed to the reporting of this story.