Colorado Farm Bureau joins sheriffs in gun legislation lawsuit

May 31, 2013

Colorado has become the poster child state for pushing the envelope of controversial changes, and the state’s latest, a historically strict gun bill legislation, has ag supporters joining forces with a number of other groups in a lawsuit challenging the legality of the legislation.

The suit alleges the bill violates both the 2nd and the 14th Amendments, along with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Colorado Farm Bureau (CFB) joined 54 Colorado sheriffs, and 20 other plaintiffs, including Magpul Industries, the Erie-based ammunition magazine manufacturer that vowed to leave Colorado after the bills were passed, in filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against two bills, HB13-1229 and HB13-1224, passed by the Colorado legislature in March. The suit is being filed in Federal District Court in Denver.

The suit points out that House Bill 1224 outlaws the majority of firearms magazines, which are an essential component for a functional firearm. The bill directly outlaws magazines of more than 15 rounds. The bill indirectly outlaws many smaller magazines with its vague language about “designed to be readily converted.” This appears to outlaw all handgun and rifle box magazines with removable floor plates, and all rifle tube magazines with removable end caps.

This violates the Supreme Court’s rule in District of Columbia v. Heller against prohibiting arms which are “typically possessed by lawabiding citizens for lawful purposes,” according to the lawsuit.

Another problem with the magazine ban is the requirement for “continuous possession” of grandfathered magazines. This makes it illegal for a wife to let her husband use her magazine for selfdefense, or to borrow her magazine and take it to a target range.

Because disabled citizens cannot change magazines rapidly, their fundamental right to self-defense in the home is especially threatened by the magazine ban.

House Bill 1229 imposes an unworkable system of mandatory fees and background checks on many temporary transfers of firearms, the lawsuit alleges. Programs which foster participation by disabled persons and by other persons in outdoor sports will be prohibited from lending a firearm to someone for a hunting trip.

“Many of our farmers and ranchers need access to firearms to protect their livestock from predators, especially during the springtime when most young are born. They also need access to firearms to protect themselves and their families,” CFB President Don Shawcroft said during a press conference.

A ban on large-capacity magazines is an endangerment to farmers and ranchers, according to the CFB.

“The law banning magazines that hold more than 15 rounds unknowingly criminalizes an otherwise law abiding citizen. Nearly every magazine has been designed to be readily converted, and limits the ability of a farmer or rancher to protect himself, his family and his livestock,” Shawcroft said.

He continued, “A ban on the number of rounds that a magazine can hold could mean the difference between life and death. If a farmer or rancher needs to take the time to reload his weapon when a predator such as a bear is advancing on himself or his livestock, he could potentially take too long, and lose his life or those livestock.”

Many family ag operations are incorporated, such as an L.L.C. or partnership, and may also include non-family members as business partners. “Requiring background checks for transfers between these partners creates an unfair burden to farmers and ranchers, as there are very few [Federal Firearms Licensees] available to perform these background checks in rural areas,” said Shawcroft.

Some farms and ranchers are organized as a corporation, adding more unnecessary costs to their operations if gun transfers are made. Family farms which are organized this way will have to pay a fee per family member and farmhand per firearm for background checks every time the farm purchases a gun.

“The requirements of these laws are unreasonable and may be nearly impossible for citizens to comply.

When the legislature passed these bills they were aiming at criminals, but hit the law abiding citizens, farmers, ranchers and rural Colorado instead. These bills are bad for Colorado, and that is why we are engaging in a lawsuit against the state,” Shawcroft stated.

Of the 64 sherriffs in the state of Colorado, 54 signed the lawsuit.

“These bills do nothing to make Colorado a safer place to live, to work, to play, to raise a family,” Weld County Sheriff John Cooke told The Denver Post. “It should never have even gotten to this point in the first place.”

Colorado’s attorney general, John Suthers, released a statement saying they hope to reach a ruling “as expeditiously as possible.”

“Colorado citizens, and law-abiding gun owners in particular, deserve such clarification,” Suthers wrote in a statement. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor