Gov. John Hickenlooper agreed late Tuesday night to clarify the high-capacity magazine law to prevent a temporary injunction that was being sought by 55 of the state's county sheriffs.
Under the compromise, the sheriff's withdrew their effort from court to temporarily block a ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition from being enforced. But the sheriff's are still pursuing a claim in U.S. District Court that the magazine ban and another law requiring universal background checks are unconstitutional and should be struck down.
"Our agreement today will take care of the issues in (House Bill) 1224 except for the core issue itself, which is banning magazines over 15, which we view is a violation of the Second Amendment," said David Kopel, the attorney representing the sheriffs in the case. There is a long list of other plaintiffs who have their own attorneys to represent them.
Kopel predicted the hearing that will vet whether the high-capacity magazine ban violates the constitution will take place as soon as December. They will also challenge the constitutionality of House Bill 1229, which requires background checks be conducted on all gun sales including those between private individuals.
Solicitor General Dan Domenico said the compromise varied little from a technical interpretation of the law issued in May to help clarify the issue and the governor was happy to provide more clarity to the issue "while still being consistent with the law as it was written."
Both sides were happy with the result, but the broader issue of the constitutionality of the laws remains and there appears to be no room for compromise there.
Under House Bill 1224 magazines that contain more than 15 rounds of ammunition are illegal for sale or transfer beginning this month, but those who possessed the magazines before the law took effect are grandfathered in and can maintain their magazines.
The portions of the law at issue Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado were requirements that grandfathered magazines be in "continuous possession" of their owners and that magazines can be banned if they are "readily converted" to hold more than 15 bullets.
Kopel said the agreement further defined "continuous possession" to mean only the giving away or selling of a magazine, not the temporary lending while the owner is present or giving the magazine to a repair shop temporarily.
And any magazine with a removable base plate -a feature that can be used to expand the capacity of a magazine - is not deemed illegal under the law, Kopel said. Instead, a person would have to actually modify the magazine to hold more than 15 bullets to violate the law.
Chief Judge Marcia Krieger looked over the proposed compromise Wednesday and ruled that a temporary injunction was unnecessary given that Hickenlooper's clarification carried the full weight of the law.
Kopel and the plaintiffs withdrew their motion for an injunction, saying they were satisfied with the compromise, although they would have preferred a ruling from Krieger to give added weight of the courts to Hickenlooper's legal clarification.
Contact Megan Schrader