Colorado’s new gun purchase waiting period faces legal challenge
Bill sponsor says every day the law remains in effect it saves lives
Taylor Rhodes, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, testifies against Senate Bill 23-170, a gun violence prevention bill, during the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee hearing at the state capitol in Denver, March 8, 2023. (Kevin Mohatt for Colorado Newsline)
A gun rights group filed a lawsuit challenging a new Colorado law imposing a minimum three-day waiting period for gun purchases on Sunday, the same day the waiting period went into effect.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners filed the suit in federal court and is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the new law to prevent its enforcement on Second Amendment grounds.
“Plaintiffs desire to obtain possession of firearms they have purchased for lawful purposes (including defense of their homes). The Waiting Period Act prohibits Plaintiffs from doing so without being subjected to an arbitrary, unnecessary, burdensome and useless delay. The right to ‘keep’ arms necessarily implies the right to possess arms one has acquired,” the lawsuit reads.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
The new three-day waiting period was created through House Bill 23-1219 and applies to gun sales at both stores and gun shows. The waiting period begins when a seller initiates a background check. It doesn’t apply to antique firearms or to U.S. military members if they are getting deployed within a month.
Bill supporters argue that a waiting period can provide a pause for people who may be considering suicide or other violence and prevent them from acquiring a firearm in the heat of the moment. The RAND Corporation found moderate evidence that waiting periods reduce suicides and violent crimes.
Ten other states and Washington D.C. have waiting period laws, ranging from three to 14 days.
RMGO and the other plaintiff, Alicia Garcia, initially filed a lawsuit over the waiting period law in April, but U.S. District Court Chief Judge Philip A. Brimmer did not block the law because it was not in effect. RMGO then voluntarily withdrew the lawsuit.
“We’ve reloaded our legal arsenal and are ready to take on this absurd waiting period that does nothing but trample on the rights of peaceable gun owners,” RMGO Executive Director Taylor Rhodes said in a statement. “Today, gun owners are feeling the wrath of Colorado’s anti-gun politicians, and my goal is to stop them from using the legal precedent set in last year’s Bruen decision. This unconstitutional delay of acquiring firearms must not stand.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen from last year has proved to be a useful precedent for gun rights groups, because it mandates that states prove their gun laws have historical precedent from early in the country’s history. The lawsuit notes that the country’s earliest waiting period law was enacted in California in 1923, which it argues is “far too late to offer any insight on the original public meaning of the Second Amendment.”
Conor Cahill, a spokesperson for Gov. Jared Polis, said that the office doesn’t typically comment on pending litigation, but the law is “important to reducing gun violence and making Colorado one of the top ten safest states.”
Lawmakers who sponsored the waiting period bill said they aren’t surprised by the legal challenge.
“It’s to be expected. That seems to be their answer to everything — spend all their money in the courts instead of trying to figure out ways to be partners and keeping their members safe,” said Sen. Tom Sullivan, a Centennial Democrat who is one of the biggest champions for gun violence prevention in the Legislature.
Rep. Meg Froelich, a Greenwood Village Democrat, said the “movement” isn’t going to stop.
“RMGO can’t win legislatively, they can’t win elections and the people of Colorado want sensible gun violence prevention measures. So the new reality is that we are going to have to fight for these common sense policies in the courts,” she said.
RMGO is also challenging a new Colorado law that raises the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21 years old. A federal judge denied a request by Polis to let the law go into effect while its constitutionality is held up in federal court.
“I hope the judge allows the (waiting period) law to go into effect while the lawsuit plays out,” Boulder Democratic Rep. Judy Amabile said. “Every day it is in effect, we’re going to save lives. That was the whole point.”
Senate Bill 23-168 also went into effect on Sunday. That law makes it easier for victims of gun violence to sue the firearm industry, including sellers and manufacturers. New York and New Jersey have similar laws on the books that are currently facing legal challenges, though Colorado’s version was amended to be a bit narrower.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:40 p.m., Oct. 2, 2023, to add comments from Gov. Jared Polis’ office and state lawmakers.
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.