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In this 2013 photo, Richard Taylor manager of Firing-Line gun store in Aurora, Colo., shows some of the pistols he wouldn't be able to sell after a law was enacted limiting the size of ammunition magazines. / Ed Andrieski AP

Colorado gun laws that mandate background checks on private sales and that limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds are constitutional, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The state's Democratic-majority legislature passed the measures last year in reaction to the 2012 mass killings at a Denver-area movie theater and the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. In a backlash by voters, two Democratic senators subsequently were recalled and a third resigned.

In her 50-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger wrote "evidence shows that large-capacity magazines are frequently used in gun violence and mass shootings, and that often a shooter will shoot continuously until a weapon jams or the shooter runs out of ammunition."

"Most experts agree that the size of a magazine correlates to the number of rounds that are fired in both an offensive and defensive capacity," she added.

But the plaintiffs - gun owners, advocates, manufacturers and sheriffs - had presented no evidence that someone's ability "to defend him or herself is seriously diminished if magazines are limited," Krieger declared.

The judge did express reservations about the laws, however.

"Whether adoption of a fifteen-round magazine limit is a sound public policy or a perfect fit with the General Assembly's objective to improve public safety is not the question before this Court," Krieger wrote. "The fit may not be perfect, but the evidence establishes both an important governmental policy and a substantial relationship between that policy and the restriction" of the law.

Addressing expanded background checks, Krieger, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush, ruled that if the government has the power to regulate sales from gun dealers, then "that same power to regulate should extend to non-commercial transactions, lest the loophole swallow the regulatory purpose.

"Thus, the Court has grave doubt that a law regulating (as opposed to prohibiting) temporary private transfers of firearms implicates the Second Amendment's guarantee at all."

She said requiring background checks for private transactions, whether in person or over the Internet, "does not prevent a person otherwise permitted to obtain a firearm from acquiring one, nor subject that person to any greater burdens than he or she would face if acquiring the weapon commercially.

"Nothing in the Second Amendment can be read to suggest that a permissible burden on commercial sales of firearms cannot similarly be extended to apply to those acquiring firearms by loan."

She cited legislative statistics showing that almost 40% of gun buys are made through private sales, that 62% of private sellers on the Internet know that the buyers can't pass a background check, and that 80% of criminals who use guns bought them privately..

The plaintiffs argued that despite exemptions for temporary loans between private parties, expanded background checks would make it legally difficult for friends or neighbors to loan firearm for protection or storage.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said that like Krieger, his office "has never asserted that the laws in question are good, wise or sound policy," but that he was obligated to defend their constitutionality.

The Colorado State Shooting Association called the ruling "disappointing on many levels," and said an an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected.

The association said Krieger's opinion "ignores or gives short-shrift" to many of the plaintiffs' arguments, and "seemingly misunderstands those that are addressed."

"The significance of the Second Amendment as a core portion of the Bill of Rights and its importance has virtually no reference in the decision," the group said in a statement. "Most noteworthy was the court's focus on the important government interest at hand while ignoring the complete absence of support for same in the legislative record."

Noting the lawmakers who were ousted, the organization said it is "time to throw out each and every legislator that voted for these laws, and the governor that signed them."



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: U.S. judge upholds Colorado gun restrictions

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