Federal judge upholds Colorado’s waiting period for firearm purchases | Courthouse News Service
Monday, November 27, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Federal judge upholds Colorado’s waiting period for firearm purchases

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Second Amendment advocacy organization, sued Colorado on Oct. 1 when the waiting period law took effect.

DENVER (CN) — A federal judge in Colorado on Monday ruled against gunowners seeking to block the state's recently enacted three-day waiting period for new firearm purchases.

“Even if the waiting period implicated the plain text of the Second Amendment, the evidence before me establishes that the Act is consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane wrote in a 42-page opinion. “Plaintiffs, therefore, have not carried their burden to show they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims."

Alicia Garcia, a gun instructor who goes by “Boomstick Babe” online, first sued Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, in April after the waiting period bill was signed into law. Second Amendment advocacy group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners joined Garcia as a plaintiff, claiming the law violated its members Second Amendment rights.

Philip Brimmer, the chief judge for the U.S. District of Colorado and a George W. Bush appointee, denied an initial request for preliminary injunction in August since the law hadn’t yet impacted Garcia.

Garcia dropped the lawsuit and refiled on Oct. 1 after the law took effect. The new case landed on the docket of Kane, a Jimmy Carter appointee who held a two-day hearing last month.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s finding in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen last year, which instructed courts to ground new gun restrictions in historical law.

In a footnote, Kane expressed his reluctance to don the hat of a historian, so he relied on experts presented by both the defense and plaintiffs.

The Second Amendment, which protects “he right of the people to keep and bear arms, was ratified in 1791, at a time when people faced very different gun issues compared to modern people, argued defense witness Robert Spitzer, a political science professor emeritus at the University of New York at Cortland. Spitzer told the court there was no need for waiting periods in colonial times, and instead drew parallels to early laws designed to prevent intoxicated — and likely impulsive — people from obtaining guns.

On behalf of the plaintiffs, Clayton Cramer, who teaches adjunct history at the College of Western Idaho called Spitzer’s theory a “warped analogy.” Judge Kane took issue with Cramer’s ad hominin attacks and inflammatory language.

"With respect, I find his testimony had significant shortcomings in persuasiveness and credibility,” Kane wrote.

The defense also presented research from Christopher Poliquin, a policy expert at the University of California at Los Angeles, connecting waiting period laws with 17% reductions in homicides and 11% drops in suicides.

Kane acknowledged the difficulty of laying the modern issue of employing waiting periods to reduce gun deaths over the right to bear arms enshrined in the Constitution.

"This is not a straightforward case — during the Founding Era and the century that followed, firearm access and technology, along with violent crime, was drastically different and a waiting period for firearm purchases would have been unnecessary,” Kane wrote. “Nonetheless, I find the governor has provided a sufficient record to conclude that our nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation is consistent with the Waiting-Period Act."

Kane also looked for guidance in the recent 10th Circuit case Vincent v. Garland, which upheld a felon firearm ban against a reformed woman who committed check fraud more than a decade ago.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Executive Director Taylor Rhodes said he intends to bring this case to the 10th Circuit, as well.

“It looks like after reading the decision that the judge wrote this right out of the Everytown for Gun Control handbook,” Rhodes told Courthouse News. “I have instructed my attorneys to start working on the motion to appeal Judge Kane's ruling.”

Representatives for Governor Polis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Follow @bright_lamp
Categories / History, Regional, Second Amendment

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.