Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Colorado Gun Law

I spent 12 hours yesterday watching sausage laws being made, and the comment about how you don't want to know is really one of the great pieces of wisdom to come down the pike. The Old Supreme Court room was packed to overflowing and with the standing room filled, the remainder of us were relegated to the smaller hearing room in the basement where an audio feed kept us up to date.

In the main room, audience participation was strongly discouraged. In the basement there was no hall monitor to watch, so the participation was notably pronounced. People had signed up to speak for or against the bills in sufficient numbers that allowing each speaker 2 minutes, we were looking at 12 hours of testimony. It turned out that opposition was running decidedly ahead of support. Presentation was limited to 2 hours for, and 2 hours against each bill. The supporters ran out in about 2 hours. At the end of the opposition time, persons who had asked to speak and were still waiting were asked to stand. About 90% of the room stood.

Two gun bills, HR13-1229 and HR13-1224 were to come before the committee on the judiciary, presumably to decide if they were in fact legal, and secondarily if they would actually do what they were advertised to do.

HR13-1229 would require all private sales of firearms to include a background check run on the buyer. This would be conducted at an FFL and would be price limited to $10. As the work involved is the same as processing a firearms transfer, the gun dealers would be expected to happily do for $10 what they had been doing for $20-35. A motion was made to allow dealers to opt out of the business of private party BCs but was defeated. It was noted that a background check would not be required for several rather innocuous situations involving lending of guns for hunting or self defense. It was noted by a friend who was there with me that rather than sell a gun to a stranger you met on Armslist, you could legally "loan" him the gun after the acceptance of a "security deposit" sufficient to cover your loss if he never brought it back. Of course you could always simply trade money for gun and if anyone asks, the buyer declares that the bought the gun before July 1 2013 and who's to know.

It was observed that the law thus would be effectively unenforceable absent universal registration and many weasel words were spouted assuring us that while this legislature could not bind future legislatures, this legislature would not implement universal registration. The audience did not find this reassuring. Even the supporters allowed that the bill would do little, if anything to reduce gun violence. The topic of jailing criminals came up. We were told this was off-topic. The measure passed on a party-line vote.

HR13-1224 is a magazine capacity law that limits the mag capacity of any semi-auto firearm to 10 rounds. You can keep your old mags, but you can't include them if you sell or transfer the gun. Good news for Hi Point, I guess. Most of the debate centered around the AR pattern guns with occasional reference to pistols. The committee was fascinated to find out there was such a thing as a 15 round mag, but lost interest when they heard that these were pistol mags. Notwithstanding the bills impact on rifles and pistols both, they were focused on the EBRs.

The bill would require all mags manufactured in CO to be marked with a serial number and date to identify those produced after the ban which CO residents would not be permitted to have. Doug Smith of Magpul noted that the mags already had dates on them and the bills sponsor allowed as how that would be sufficient. Magpul mags have a date notation because they are made in an injection molding machine and the molds have a finite lifespan. This way Magpul knows when to replace them.

It was pointed out by one of the participants that other magazine makers used metal and thus did not date mark or serialize their mags.  It was also pointed out that these unmarked mags were sold at Cabellas in Scottsbluff and other outlets in Wyoming, Kansas, New Mexico, and Utah. The committee asked if the witness thought this would lead to road trips to buy the mags out of state, since without markings there would be no way to identify a legal (pre 7/1/13) magazine from an illegal (post 7/1/13) unit. The witness suggested that this could happen, but the committee thought this would not impair the efficacy of the bill and moved on. Anyone who knows anything about the history of buying fireworks in Wyoming and bringing them back to Colorado will find this hilarious.

Doug Smith of Magpul, which surprisingly is located in Boulder County, granola capitol of Colorado, noted that there was no exception in the bill to cover the manufacture of standard capacity magazines, which his company sells world wide, civilian and military. Magpul is a $44M company that was looking to double capacity. The plans are currently on hold while the company waits to see if everybody on their site is liable for 1 year in jail per mag on the site. If true, then Magpul would have until 1 Jul to remove every >10 round mag from their site and cease production in Colorado. They are currently investigating alternative sites. Attention Gov Perry, Magpul is in the phone book. BTW: Magpul has a 10 round mag in development.

Best theater award: In the normal course of making legislation, standard practice is for the peasants to trek to the capitol to kneel and kiss the rings of the legislators, petitioning them to not abuse their constituents overly harshly. In the case of Magpul, once the committee heard the amount of money in taxes and salaries that was involved, the obsequious butt-kissing by the committee chairman was certainly a sight to behold. Amendments? Sure! Exceptions? You mean they're not already there? Let us fix that, possibly while you wait. Fries with that sir? Touch up the shine on your shoes?

The County Sheriffs, led by Smith of Larimer county made a persuasive and impassioned plea that their people needed to be able to defend themselves from assaults to the same degree the deputies were able to defend themselves and the citizens, i.e. standard capacity magazines. Smith for Governor!

A citizen described being in an altercation with 3 assailants in which he was shot 5 times in the back, and went through 13 of the 16 rounds in his pistol before the hostilities ceased. NOTE: In such a situation, NEVER suggest to the 911 operator that all the involved parties are not accounted for, otherwise the police will wait outside for the SWAT team while you bleed to death inside.

End on the day, at 9PM, the bill was judged to be safe and efficacious on a party line vote, and with a carve-out for Magpul, will go to the house for approval.

At this point I have to conclude that the remaining bills will sail through the committee on similar votes, and will eventually end up on the Governors desk where his membership in MAIG will  ensure their signing.

Texas is looking better and better. Colorado is going the way of California, full speed.

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