Today the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, an intermediate federal appeals court located in Denver, ruled against approximately 50 Colorado sheriffs and a group of nonprofit Second Amendment advocacy groups, not based on the merits of their arguments, but because the plaintiffs “failed to establish Article III standing to bring any of their claims.”
The sheriffs’ case alleged that parts of the 2013 Colorado gun control laws violated the Second Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the decision, the 10th Circuit could not rule on the legality of the argument, because it found that the plaintiffs did not have the right to even argue the case in court.
Dave Kopel, the attorney for the sheriffs, pointed out in a press conference this afternoon that the decision gave a roadmap to a differently structured case, where a new case would involve plaintiffs with specific harms. Kopel remarked that the court is looking for a plaintiff with a “credible threat of prosecution” when a criminal statute is being challenged.
Kopel called this “a very good ruling” for the sheriffs because it wipes the slate clean and allows the sheriffs to start over.
“These laws are completely unenforceable, and they have not been enforced, because they can’t be,” Kopel said. Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith added that he did not know of a single case where a dangerous criminal was prosecuted in Colorado under these laws, and also pointed out that he does not have any reports of gun stores in his jurisdiction selling magazines in excess of 15 round capacities.
That didn’t stop Attorney General Cynthia Coffman from defending these crappy laws by saying:
“I’m proud of the team in my office that fulfilled our legal role of defending these unconstitutional state laws, and we can’t wait to fight for the Second Amendment rights of our citizens.”
Just kidding. She said:
“I’m proud of the team in my office that fulfilled our legal role of defending state laws. The court today did not explain whether Colorado’s large-capacity magazine restriction and background check requirement are consistent with the United States Constitution. Instead the court dismissed the case on procedural grounds.”
We think our version sounds better, and is probably more appealing to her base.
Nonetheless, elections matter. It is looking like it is going to take a very long time for courts to provide relief here. Republicans need to take back control of the governor’s mansion and both house of the legislature in order to get rid of these unnecessary and unconstitutional laws.