Back in 2013 two new gun laws took effect in Colorado which extended background checks to just about all weapons transfers and also banned the purchase of high-capacity gun magazines. The laws were a response to the Aurora movie theater shooting the previous year that left 12 people dead and 70 injured and earned the shooter, James Holmes, twelve life sentences and an additional 3,318 years.
The law was immediately attacked by the usual coalition of gun-nut groups; i.e., NRA, 2nd Amendment Sisters, blah, blah and blah, who took to the legal ramparts to defend their precious 2nd Amendment rights. A concurrent suit was also filed by 55 Colorado sheriffs who claimed that the law was unenforceable and therefore should not be allowed to stand. In 2014 District Court Judge Marcia upheld both laws, stating that neither infringed on the 2nd Amendment or anything else.
Today the 10th Circuit ruled that the initial finding by the District Court was correct and went further, dismissing the both appeals because the appellants could not prove any ‘standing’ in either case. In order to bring a case of this sort into Federal court, the plaintiffs have to demonstrate that they were harmed by the law which they are challenging, or would face imminent harm. Without such proof, the plaintiffs don’t have ‘standing’ in the case, or what we might call skin in the game.
To show you how much the plaintiffs in this case were being damaged by these laws, it’s worth examining their specific claims in each case. As to the injuries that might be caused by limiting magazine capacities to 15 rounds, the plaintiffs were represented by someone named Elisa Dahlberg who said she owned two 30-round magazines and one 17-round magazine, all of which were grandfathered in under the 2013 law but, according to Ms. Dahlberg, might eventually “wear out” and thus could not be replaced. But since Ms. Dahlberg did not testify that she was going to purchase a new hi-capacity magazine, nor did she even have any plans as to when she might try to buy a new hi-cap mag, she had not been injured by the law nor did she face the imminent possibility that she might wind up being prosecuted in court. And that meant she had no standing to bring this case.
As to the damage from background checks, the plaintiffs produced the secretary of a Colorado chapter of Outdoor Buddies, which happens to be a wonderful organization that helps disabled individuals enjoy the outdoors. And basically what this guy said was that a disabled individual might want to borrow a gun to go hunting but would encounter difficulties if borrowing the weapon created the need to engage in an immediate background check. Except that not only does the Colorado background check law include exemptions for temporary loans of guns, but just like Ms. Dahlberg who hadn’t yet decided that she actually was going to need more hi-cap magazines, the Outdoor Buddies had yet to take a disabled person out to the woods who actually needed to borrow a gun.
What I find interesting in this case is the degree to which the gun-nut community goes hog-wild every time they sniff the slightest threat to their so-called Constitutional ‘rights,’ but when push comes to shove, they can’t show that their rights have been damaged at all. In fact, in this particular case, the plaintiffs couldn’t even find anyone who gave one rat’s damn about exercising their gun rights, at least the gun rights that were allegedly being circumscribed by these draconian laws.
As to the sheriffs and their defense of the 2nd Amendment, in order to have skin in the game they had to show that carrying out these laws created a ‘credible threat of prosecution’ but in their own testimony the sheriffs admitted that not one of them faced any prosecutorial threats of any kind at all. Which meant that their legal challenge also got tossed, which means that both Colorado laws remain in full force.