Judge upholds Colorado gun restrictions

Ivan Moreno, Associated Press 5:48 p.m. EDT June 26, 2014

(Photo: Ed Andrieski AP)

DENVER (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday upheld Colorado gun restrictions that limit the size of ammunition magazines and expand background checks on firearms sold online and between private parties.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger said in her ruling that both laws are constitutional and that they don't infringe on individuals' right to bear arms.

The judge further said that limiting magazine sizes doesn't obstruct individuals' ability to protect themselves and that the expansion of background checks "is no more severe" than the requirements already in place before the new law.

Gun rights advocates and county sheriffs filed the lawsuit to overturn the laws, which Democrats passed last year without Republican support.

Opponents of the laws criticized them as unenforceable. Krieger dismissed that argument, saying it didn't apply to whether the laws were unconstitutional.

"A court does not act as a super-legislature to determine the wisdom or workability of the legislation," Krieger said. "Instead, it determines only whether legislation is constitutionally permissible. A law may be constitutional, but nevertheless foolish, ineffective or cumbersome to enforce."

Colorado lawmakers passed the restrictions in reaction to the 2012 shooting rampage at a suburban Denver movie theater last summer, where 12 people were killed and dozens more were wounded, and the 2012 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The gun control debate was one of the most emotionally charged of the 2013 legislative session, with lengthy debates and national attention.

President Obama added to the attention on the Colorado Statehouse, as his administration unsuccessfully pushed Congress to enact similar gun controls.

Two Democratic state senators who voted for the laws were recalled from office in September, leaving the party with a one-seat majority in the chamber. A third Democratic lawmaker resigned while a recall effort was ongoing.

Regarding the law limiting magazine sizes to 15 rounds, Krieger said there was no evidence presented to show that a person's ability "to defend him or herself is seriously diminished if magazines are limited ..."

The plaintiffs argued that the background check expansion would make it difficult for people to simply loan a firearm to a friend or neighbor or that some people would put themselves at danger of prosecution for giving a gun to a friend for storage.

Krieger said individuals have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms for self-defense but added that "it is not at all clear that the Second Amendment prevents the government from restricting the ability of persons to acquire firearms via temporary loans from others."