When Governor John Hickenlooper signed the controversial ban on magazines holding over 15 rounds into law back in March the state’s political historian, Lynn Bartels, noted he did something that she couldn’t remember ever seeing before — he added a signing statement to clarify sloppily written legislation:
— Lynn Bartels (@lynn_bartels) March 21, 2013
That sloppy effort at writing legislation led to a legislative white-out last week when plaintiffs suing the state over the mag ban reached a back room agreement on how certain phrases in the legislation would be interpreted.
Reported The Colorado Observer‘s Valerie Richardson last week:
DENVER—Colorado gun owners may now hand ammunition magazines to their friends and family without fear of arrest, thanks to a last-minute agreement reached Wednesday.
The parties in the lawsuit over the state legislature’s newly enacted gun-control laws agreed to a settlement Wednesday that clarifies two sections of the House Bill 1224, which bans magazines holding more than 15 rounds…
The guidance addresses two sections of the H.B. 1224, the first being the ban on magazines that are “designed to be readily convertible” to hold more than 15 rounds. Critics had argued that the ban would cover virtually any magazine, given that most have removable base plates.
Under the newly approved guidance, magazines with removable base plates are not prohibited unless they are permanently altered.
“These baseplates themselves do not enable the magazines to be expanded, and they serve functions aside from the expansion—notable, they allow the magazines to be cleaned and repaired,” says the guidance. “To actually convert them to higher capacity, one must purchase additional equipment or permanently alter their operation mechanically.”
The second section centers on the law’s requirement that magazine owners maintain “continuous possession” of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Such magazines are now banned from being sold or purchased in Colorado, but those who bought them before the law took effect July 1 may keep them.
Gun-rights advocates have described the law as impossible to enforce, and have made their point by staging protest events in which they hand magazines to each other in defiance of the law.
The guidance gives a different spin to the phrase “continuous possession.”
“’Continuous possession’ does not require a large-capacity magazine owner to maintain literally continuous physical possession of the magazine,” says the guidance. “’Continuous possession’ is only lost by a voluntary relinquishment of dominion and control.”
Gun control proponents, laughably, tried to claim victory on this, saying it meant the law was good after all. If it was so great, then why did it take a back room negotiation, between unelected parties, to get it right?
Not only did this have to happen behind closed doors, itself a sad sign of the sloppy work done in the legislature, but it had to have a court enforce the legislative white-out. As a legal source noted to us, the court issued a preliminary injunction binding the governor to this corrected language.
Maybe the legislature could benefit from a remedial course in how to write laws before next session begins?
For more information on what the court’s injunction means for gun owners, see the video update from the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara below: