A brief roundup of reporting on the release late Friday by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers of long-awaited technical guidance for law enforcement on the implementation of House Bill 1224, the bill limiting gun magazine capacity to 15 rounds. Suthers' release of this guidance, which lays out the plain language of House Bill 1224 and seeks to dispel a huge amount of unfounded speculation and misinterpretations of the new law, came on the same day that a majority of Colorado county sheriffs held a press conference with Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute announcing their lawsuit to overturn both House Bill 1224 and the universal background checks bill, House Bill 1229.
Apparently, the sheriffs were a lot more interesting to the media.
Hypothetically, Suthers' technical guidance should take some of the wind out of the sails of opponents–and least those motivated by specious, even irrational interpretations of the bill's language. As the scant press coverage that actually mentions Suthers' memo from the weekend indicates, though, it didn't even slow them down.
7NEWS' Alan Gathright appears to have done the best job explaining what the AG's guidance means:
Some concerns about the law prohibiting the sale, transfer and possessing of large-capacity ammunition magazines might be eased by a legal opinion released Friday by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Department of Public Safety Executive Director James Davis. Gov. John Hickenlooper instructed the officials to provide the technical guidance on how law enforcement agencies should interpret and enforce the law.
Just because a magazine has a "removable baseplate" does not mean it falls under the law's definition of a large-capacity magazine "designed to be readily converted to accept more than 15 rounds of ammunition," the guidance says. "
On many magazines, that [removable baseplate] design feature is included to specifically to permit cleaning and maintenance," the opinion says. "Of course, a magazine whose baseplate is replaced with one that does, in fact, allow the magazine to accept more than 15 rounds would be a 'large-capacity magazine' under House Bill 1224."
So, just having a magazine with the potential to be expanded to hold more than 15 rounds isn't deemed a violation of the law. [Pols emphasis]
The Durango Herald's Joe Hanel reports, if that's a problem for your outrage, the answer is simple: just ignore it.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers sent a “guidance” to police around the state Friday about how the law should be enforced. The memo says a magazine shouldn’t be treated as high-capacity simply because it has a removable baseplate.
However, plaintiffs said such guidance is legally meaningless, and they want the law overturned. [Pols emphasis]
9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman wrote a story Friday about Suthers' memo that both explains its meaning pretty well, and helps one understand why the local media has gotten, and continues to get, this story so very wrong.
A broad interpretation [Pols emphasis] of the bill's language banning magazines that are "designed to be readily converted to accept, more than fifteen rounds" could mean that any magazine with a removable base plate would be banned because extenders can be used on some models to increase capacity…
David Kopel, the lawyer suing the state over HB-1224, says the technical guidance does not change the suit because the guidance can always be changed and constitutional concerns remain over having vague language on the books.
He did concede that the court may decide to adopt the guidance or set down other clarifications of the law in its ruling. [Pols emphasis]
Bottom line: a "broad interpretation" of just about any law could lead to ridiculous and unworkable "unintended consequences." In situations where a law is not controversial, this is not a problem, as no responsible person in charge of implementing said law would ever interpret the law that, you know, stupidly. But in the case of these gun safety bills, where opponents have freely employed total bullshit to frighten the public, it is entirely natural, even expected, that they will also insist on the most absurd, draconian interpretation of these laws imaginable–for as long as doing so has any political benefit.
In 2006, Colorado voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 41, an "ethics in government" measure that was bitterly opposed by elected officials and lobbyists. Persons with freebies and/or access to lose under Amendment 41 lurched from one crazy "unintended consequence" to another in an effort to scuttle the bill, and then to discredit it into meaninglessness after passage. Sob stories about children being denied scholarships and other untold heartbreak flooded an accommodating local press.
And then adults interpreted the bill like adults, and amazingly, none of that stuff happened.
In the case of House Bill 1224, it has always been our contention that the language in the legislation, "designed to be readily converted," correctly and precisely narrowed the scope of magazines that would be banned. We have always maintained, and still firmly believe, that no court will come to the nutty conclusions about the plain language in this bill that opponents imagine. We have watched this year as that language has been second-guessed and misinterpreted by opponents with an interest in raising alarm, grounded in fact or not–and uncritically repeated by local media who were apparently too busy making sure their hair was perfectly coiffed for their big story to look critically at the story.
At some point, the misinformation is going to end. The game will be up for those benefiting from lies, and some people in this town who call themselves "journalists" will, we sincerely hope, have some introspection awaiting them.