Late this afternoon, the office of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers released a long-awaited technical guidance letter prepared for the Department of Public Safety on the implementation of House Bill 1224, the magazine limit bill. This technical guidance was requested by Gov. John Hickenlooper at the signing of HB-1224 into law, following the many objections raised by opponents of the legislation that the bill would "ban all magazines," or at least all magazines "with a removable baseplate" or other design feature that could hypothetically allow them to be expanded beyond the legal maximum of 15 rounds.
As we have reassured our readers over and over, but unfortunately local media has failed to clarify for an anxious and misinformed public–even helping spread baseless speculation–that is not going to happen.
Definition of "Large Capacity Magazine"
Under House Bill 1224, the term "large capacity magazine" is defined, in part, as follows: "a fixed or detachable magazine, box, drum, feed strip, or similar device capable of accepting, or that is designed to be readily converted to accept, more than fifteen rounds of ammunition."
The phrase "designed to be readily converted to accept more than fifteen rounds of ammunition" has prompted questions regarding the scope of the definition, particularly because some ammunition magazines include features, such as removable baseplates, that can be removed and replaced, or otherwise altered, so that the magazine accepts more than fifteen rounds.
The term "designed," when used as a modifier, denotes a feature that meets a specific function. This suggests that design features that fulfill more than one function, and whose function is not specifically to increase the capacity of a magazine, do not fall under the definition. The features of a magazine must be judged objectively to determine whether they were "designed to be readily converted to accept more than fifteen rounds."
Under this reading of the definition, a magazine that accepts fifteen or fewer rounds is not a "large capacity magazine" simply because it includes a removable baseplate which may be replaced with one that allows the magazine to accept additional rounds. [Pols emphasis] On many magazines, that design feature is included specifically to permit cleaning and maintenance. Of course, a magazine whose baseplate is replaced with one that does, in fact, allow the magazine to accept more than fifteen rounds would be a "large capacity magazine" under House Bill 1224.
Here's the full text of the memo, which also explains the meaning of the "continuous possession" language in the bill–and again, the plain interpretation of the bill does not lead to the wild unforeseen consequences Republican opponents insisted would be the result. With both of these provisions but particularly the language on whether magazines were "designed to be readily converted," it is obvious now that opponents like Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute were not telling the truth when they claimed that House Bill 1224 would mean "almost all guns in Colorado will never be able to get a magazine again." It means that every reporter who uncritically reprinted this lie now needs to write another story explaining how that wasn't true.
And folks, we're not going to forget this. The amount of misinformation spread about this legislation by opponents, and too often subsidized by reporters dismayingly willing to trade long-term credibility for short-term scoops, was totally unacceptable and needs to be called out. A lowly political blog should not be the only media source telling the public the truth about this bill, but that really does seem to be what happened in this case.
The people of Colorado deserved better. And we hope they finally get it now.