Imagine the state legislature telling local governments they have new authority to obstruct the freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment. If it could do that, it could also tell local school districts to segregate on a basis of race in direct defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. It could authorize cities and counties to seize private property in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and hundreds of years of case law.
A legislature that can negate the Second Amendment would have no compunction telling local authorities to go ahead and redraft those old Jim Crow laws rooted in the concept that “local control” can trump constitutional rights.
If this sounds farfetched, consider that Democrats who control the Colorado legislature think they can authorize local governments, “special districts,” and colleges and universities to violate the Second Amendment’s guarantee that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Indeed, it is every bit as laughable and ludicrous as it sounds and there is no catch.
From the Senate Bill 256: “The bill permits a local government to enact an ordinance, regulation, or other law governing or prohibiting the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of a firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory that is not less restrictive than state laws governing the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of the firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory.”
Gov. Jared Polis should prepare his veto pen. In the event this gets signed into law, the courts will negate it. Oh, that’s right, they already have. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled local gun restrictions, such as those this bill would attempt to allow, unconstitutional in the 2007 ruling in Heller v. District of Columbia. To ensure this ruling applied to all states, and not just the District, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the ruling with its 2010 decision in McDonald v. Chicago.
If that weren’t enough to constrain the legislature, there’s the matter of the Colorado Constitution. It says “The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question...”
Whether one likes or dislikes the legislature’s intent with SB 256, it is clearly a plan that goes against the law.
Boulder Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg co-sponsors the bill and said in a hearing Wednesday that he was “not totally aware that state law in Colorado preempts local governments from having any role in regulating firearms at the local level.”
Having learned as much, he voted nevertheless to send the bill to the Senate floor for a hearing Friday.
In addition to the obvious and irrefutable legal obstructions to this bill are multiple practical dilemmas. As pointed out in the hearing, Colorado gun owners travel from county to county, town to town. The oxymoronic illegal law would try to make criminals of individuals exercising a fundamental civil right protected by the U.S. and state constitutions and centuries of case law. They would supposedly break local laws by merely traveling from Rifle (which won’t outlaw guns) to Aspen (which will outlaw guns) — even if professionally trained and licensed by law enforcement to carry a concealed handgun.
The illegal law would almost certainly get people killed. A killer planning a gun crime won’t obey any jurisdiction’s gun laws, but would easily discern which cities, towns, counties, special districts, or “institutions of higher education” had disarmed law-abiding residents who obey gun laws.
Good people with guns frequently stop bad people with guns, as detailed in a recent Gazette Perspective article. It never makes big news because crimes stopped in progress don’t leave large body counts. Let’s never forget the man who traveled from Arvada to Colorado Springs in 2007 with enough guns and ammo to kill thousands at the 5,000-seat New Life Church.
He shot and killed two teenagers in the parking lot just before the heroic Jeanne Assam pulled a concealed handgun and stopped him from unloading a semi-automatic military-style rifle into the congregation. Coloradans can only wish a good person with a gun had stopped the King Soopers killer in Boulder this spring.
Fenberg and other legislators pushing this bill would have local governments tell the next killer there will be no Assam, or anyone like her, in locations that forbid law-abiding people from carrying guns. It would empower criminals and leave vulnerable those who obey laws.
This bill is a foolish and dangerous waste of time and the court of final appeal has already shot it down with rulings in D.C. and Chicago.
Democratic Senators should stop SB 256 on Friday before making fools of themselves and endangering the public.