Published: June 29, 2013
DENVER - New Colorado gun laws linked to recall attempts aimed at two senators and a legal challenge filed by 55 county sheriffs will take effect Monday.
Starting Monday, no one will be able to buy magazines that hold more than 15 bullets. And background checks will be required for every gun sale, including those between private individuals.
It's legislation that Democrats, especially Rep. Rhonda Fields who sponsored the bills, heralded as a significant step toward keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and reducing the carnage in mass shootings.
But for Republicans - particularly a large group of county sheriffs who lobbied against the laws at the Capitol - the laws are the latest step in an infringement of Second Amendment rights that will do little for public safety.
One corner of the controversy is occupied by people such as Paul Paradis, owner of Paradise Sales Firearms for three decades in downtown Colorado Springs.
"It's a very weird business world for a firearms store," Paradis said. "Things you think that should be in high demand are not. Manufacturers are slowly converting things to conform to the laws. We're waiting to see if there's going to be an injunction against the magazine laws. There's nothing we can do except sit and wait."
Paradis said there has not been a rush on high-capacity magazine purchases as Monday approaches. Anyone who buys a magazine with more than 15 rounds before Monday will be able to keep the item as long as they maintain "continuous possession."
A hearing is scheduled for July 10 to hear the sheriffs' request for a preliminary injunction on that specific portion of the high-capacity magazine ban.
But any demand to obtain the magazines before the date might have been filled.
"I had a guy from Oklahoma and one from Tennessee that literally brought tractor-trailers full of magazines to Colorado to go around to gun shows, and they couldn't sell them," Paradis said.
The real demand right now is ammunition, which he can't keep on the shelf for more than hours for certain calibers.
In the meantime, Paradis said his remaining inventory of high-capacity magazines will sit in storage until he can legally sell it to law enforcement.
All orders he places will be magazines developed to be compliant with a long-standing California ban - including that the magazines not be readily convertible to handle additional ammo above the 15-cartridge limit.
John Hotchkiss, owner of Red Bear Gun Brokers in Briargate, said remaining inventory after Monday will be sold online to buyers in states that do not have the ban.
Neither federally licensed gun dealer, however, said they would help facilitate the soon-to-be required background checks between private gun owners.
Both said the allowable $10 fee for the background check wouldn't come close to compensating them for the time or liability of facilitating the sale.
"Background checks are a proven measure we have used for a long time to control access to guns, and now we will have that in place for private sales," Fields said. "It's all about protecting our community as a whole. We don't want the wrong people, dangerous people, to have access to guns."
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is skeptical the background checks will prevent crimes, but they will instead inconvenience and criminalize law-abiding citizens.
"A background check should have prevented Evan Ebel from possessing a firearm, but he found someone to buy it for him. We even have laws that prevent a person who can legally purchase a firearm from doing so for someone else," Maketa said, referencing Ebel, the parolee who is suspected of killing Colorado Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements with a gun a friend bought for him. "The fact is I think we're weak on enforcing those laws. That's why the sheriffs debated, let's enforce the laws we have now and address the mental health issue."
Maketa is among the sheriffs seeking an injunction of parts of the magazine law and also challenging the constitutionality of the background checks.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is gearing up for the expected increase in background checks the new requirements will bring.
"We have hired about a dozen new people, and they've been in the training process and should be ready to go come July 1," CBI spokeswoman Susan Medina said. "We feel that they'll be available and ready to address any surges that come post-July 1."
This year, gun buyers were waiting days to get the results of their background checks, but Medina said the wait period has been substantially reduced.
"There's just been a very dramatic increase in the number of background check requests over the years," Medina said.
Contact Megan Schrader: 719-286-0644