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 federal judge in Denver on Monday declined to block enforcement of a new Colorado law that imposes a three-day waiting period on firearm purchases.
U.S. District Court Judge John Kane denied a request for a preliminary injunction on the law and ruled that the law does not violate the Second Amendment’s guarantee that Americans can to keep and bear arms or go against a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that gun-rights groups have used as a foundation for their challenges against firearm laws across the country. The law can be enforced while the question of its constitutionality makes it way through the court system.
“Saving approximately 100 people in Colorado this year outweighs the aggregate harm of minimal expenditures of time and sacrificed business opportunities,” Kane wrote in his ruling, referring to statistics that experts brought forward about how waiting periods can reduce suicides and homicides.
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The lawsuit was brought by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a conservative gun-rights group in the state that is also challenging another new law in Colorado that raised the minimum age to purchase a gun in Colorado to 21. A different judge granted the group a preliminary injunction in that case. The defendant is Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat.
In this case, RMGO and the other plaintiff, firearms instructor Alicia Garcia, argued that the law primarily imposes business and economic burdens. During a hearing, Garcia testified that she purchased a shotgun on Oct. 1, the day the law went into effect, shortly before she was to travel to Virginia for a shooting event that could have expanded her business opportunities. Because of the law, she could not possess the new gun in time for the event.
Kane wrote that the plaintiffs “alleged no harm associated with the right of self-defense,” which he wrote is the central component of the Second Amendment. Garcia’s ownership of at least 10 other firearms showed that her ability to defend herself was not affected by the law.
“The harm alleged by Ms. Garcia pertains only to her time and business opportunities. Here, those are quintessential compensable harms, i.e, not irreparable. Plaintiffs have not demonstrated they will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is denied,” he wrote.
The new law also does not contradict the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which requires gun regulations to be based in historical tradition. The Bruen standard was key in blocking enforcement of the purchase-age law.
Kane referenced testimony from defendant experts that there were not rapid, convenient gun sale mechanisms for most of the country’s history as there are today, and consumers often had to wait weeks to obtain a firearm.
“Individuals in the Founding Era would not have understood the purchase of firearms to include a right to receive a firearm without any delay,” he wrote.
Additionally, the state argued — and Kane agreed — that the Second Amendment’s plain text covers the possession and keeping of firearms. The waiting period law affects only the timeline of those actions.
On Monday, RMGO said it plans to appeal the decision to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Undoubtedly, this is a bump in the road, but we won’t stop fighting for our members until this disastrous waiting period scheme is off the books,” RMGO Executive Director Taylor Rhodes said.
The waiting period and age limit laws were part of a group of firearm regulations that Democrats passed in the Colorado Legislature this year. The other laws, which have not been challenged, are an expansion of the state’s extreme risk protection order law — or “red flag” law — and a rollback of the state’s legal protections for gun and ammunition manufacturers and sellers. The Legislature also passed a law that requires so-called ghost guns to be serialized and identifiable.
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