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Bruen Claws Gash in Public Safety

Federal Judge Improves Preliminary Injunction on Minimum Age Law

By Eileen McCarron

On April 28th, Governor Jared Polis signed a bill establishing a minimum age of 21 for any firearm purchase. That law went into effect on August 7th, but on that very day, a federal district court judge placed a preliminary injunction on the law indicating that he believed that it would be found in a later hearing to not meet the constitutionality requirements provided in the Bruen decision. Those history and tradition requirements were promulgated last year by Justice Thomas and have been creating havoc ever since.

At a time of rising youth gun violence and the knowledge that those under 21 are frequently the perpetrators of mass shootings, the district judge’s decision does not rest well with the public safety of the state or the druthers of Coloradans, who overwhelmingly support the age 21 standard (internal poll). 

Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times pointed out that we already prevent youth from buying alcohol and tobacco, and that allowing guns in the hands of 18-21 year-olds adds danger to youth and the community. This year, as of August 14th, there have been at least 57 (19 fatal) non-suicidal shootings in Colorado where either the victim or perpetrator was reported to be under the age of 21. (Data derived from Gun Violence Archive). From road rage to altercations to broken relationships, youth and guns are a deadly mix.  

Colorado was by no means paving new territory with this law, as nine other states (California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) already have similar measures.  

The lawsuit was filed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and two individuals aged 18 and 21, who had requested the injunction. RMGO also filed suit on the waiting periods law, which goes into effect October 1st. The judge did not place an injunction on that law, indicating the plaintiffs did not demonstrate an imminent injury.  

Mike Littwin decries this decision in his op-ed in the Colorado Sun. He places blame on Judge Brimmer, but largely on the Bruen decision. 

Last week, attorneys for Governor Polis asked the court to reverse the injunction until the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides on an appeal to the case. The request stated the law is a “critical component of Colorado’s broader effort to combat gun violence, teen suicide, and mass shootings,” and that Colorado would “suffer irreparable injury each day that SB23-169 remains preliminarily enjoined.”  

Unfortunately, a federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the federal law banning licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns to those under 21 is unconstitutional. The judge in that case also cited the Bruen decision. That ruling does not apply to Colorado.  

Last year RMGO filed lawsuits against the assault weapons and large capacity bans in the county of Boulder and the city of Superior.  They were granted injunctions on both of those. RMGO also filed a lawsuit against the 2013 Colorado large capacity magazine ban. None of these cases has yet had a hearing. 

Relevant Court Decisions Elsewhere

— The Illinois Supreme court narrowly (4-3) upheld the state’s assault weapons ban, which also bans large capacity magazines. Opponents of the law claimed it violated the state constitution and vowed to continue their fight in federal courts.  

— U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (not a friend of gun violence prevention) temporarily reinstated the Biden administration’s ability to regulate ghost guns (unserialized and untraceable firearms). This overwrote a lower court decision to block the enforcement of  ATF’s rule, which classifies gun kits as completed firearms that must be serialized and are subject to a background check prior to sale. Colorado enacted a ban on ghost guns in June of 2023, some parts are not effective until January 1, 2024. 

— In July, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that Oregon’s large capacity magazine bam (10 rounds) is constitutional as large capacity magazines are “not specifically necessary to render firearms operable,” noting that a firearm could be fully operational with a smaller capacity magazine.