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Coloradans Fight Gun-Control Laws

DENVER (CN) - Two witnesses Wednesday claimed there are flaws in gun control laws, in the third day of a federal trial testing the constitutionality of three gun-control bills in Colorado.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the gun-control bills into law in March 2013. They include a ban on sale of large-capacity gun magazines and require universal background checks before a gun sale.

The signing was a partisan effort, in a Legislature mostly controlled by Democrats at the time, to stem gun violence in a state that suffered mass murders at Columbine High School and in an Aurora movie theater.

Two months later, dozens of individuals, nonprofits and for-profit organizations sued Hickenlooper, the Mesa County Board of County Commissioners and other governmental agencies. After much pretrial back and forth between, the plaintiff group was whittled down to 31 entities, including the nonprofit Colorado Outfitters, magazine manufacturer Magpul Industries, and the Colorado Farm Bureau.

The plaintiffs claim the laws violate the Second and 14th Amendments and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and are unenforceable.

Attorneys called several witnesses Wednesday, including Florida State professor and gun control expert Gary Kleck, and Colorado Farm Bureau Public Policy Coordinator Nicholas Colglazier.

Kleck testified on his studies on gun control and defensive gun use. He said data show that crime rates dropped significantly since the 1990s and that one of the best ways to guard against injury during an attack a gun. He said some of the data used to support gun control is flawed.

For instance, an FBI study on homicide does not count all homicides, Kleck said, only homicides that occur during the commission of another felony. It does not count someone using a gun to defend himself or herself. "It's not a count of all defensive homicides, just a subset," Kleck said. "It is based on what the cops knew at the time of the arrest."

Kleck claimed that when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives surveyed agencies that traced where guns went after being turned in by police, most of the time they were not doing it. That made the trace data flawed.

"You can't infer how guns got into criminals hands from trace data," he said.

Defense attorneys tried to show that Kleck's research too might use unreliable sources.

Kleck said he uses as many reliable sources as he can.

Colglazier then took the stand to testify that the new gun regulations are a burden to Colorado's farm community.

"Firearms are an integral part of the operation," Colglazier said.

He said that when he worked on farms and orchards, his family used firearms for self-defense, defense of livestock and for hunting. He said he used guns against people interested in using the farm's fertilizer to make meth.

Colglazier said that after the new laws were passed his group received an abnormal amount of calls from members who worried about how the regulations would affect their lives. One issue is the background checks and transfer of guns. Under one of the new laws, gun owners must go to a gun dealer to transfer their firearm to another person. Colglazier said many farmers live far away from gun dealers and it will make it harder to give a gun to someone else.

"It will significantly burden farmers," he said.

Defense attorneys asked Colglazier if he knew of anyone who had problems with background checks. He replied: "I don't know."

Arguments continue Thursday and are to finish on April 11.

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