BALANCE OF POWER

It pleases me to see our courts will do what our Congress won’t: support gun-safety legislation.

After the tragic mass-shooting attack of a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012, the Colorado General Assembly worked to pass several new gun-safety laws: requiring buyers to pass a criminal background check before buying a gun anywhere (including online and at gun shows), and limiting the number of rounds ammunition magazines can hold.

Not surprisingly, the constitutionality of those laws was challenged, even before they were enacted or enforced.  A court heard the case in a nine-day trial, and then ruled: Colorado’s new gun-safety laws “are compliant with the provisions of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution” (Colorado Outfitters Association, et al. v. Hickenlooper, et al., pg. 50).  A win for gun-safety advocates.

Not surprisingly, that ruling was challenged; but even then, the higher Court of Appeals (10th Circuit) recently ruled the case should never have gone to trial because the plaintiffs had no standing to challenge the laws in the first place.  Another win for gun-safety advocates.

Certainly that ruling, too, will be challenged in court – up to the Supreme Court.

Which makes what the Supreme Court has done recently all the more important.

After the tragic mass-shooting attack of young children and teachers at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, the state legislatures of Connecticut and New York each passed new gun-safety laws: limiting the amount of rounds ammunition magazines can hold, and banning most different models of semi-automatic assault rifles.

Not surprisingly, the constitutionality of those laws was challenged in Court.  In New York, the case (New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc., et al. v. Cuomo, et al.) was heard, and ruled: the new gun-safety laws do not violate the Second Amendment.  In Connecticut, the case (Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League, et al. v. Malloy, et al.) was heard, and ruled: the new gun-safety laws do not violate the Second Amendment.  Two big wins for gun-safety advocates.

Not surprisingly, those two rulings were challenged; but even the higher Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit), which bundled the two cases together for one decision, ruled: “We hold that the core provisions of the New York and Connecticut laws prohibiting possession of semiautomatic assault weapons and large‐capacity magazines do not violate the Second Amendment” (Shelby v. Malloy, pg. 4).  Another big win for gun-safety advocates.

Not surprisingly, that ruling was challenged – up to the Supreme Court; and the Supreme Court declined to hear the challenge, letting the Appeals Court ruling stand – which is another big win for gun-safety advocates.

So, to recap, after tragic mass-shooting attacks, several state legislatures worked to pass new gun-safety laws, those laws were all challenged in court, and the courts have all upheld the laws as Constitutional, not violating anyone’s Second Amendment rights.  Since the gun-safety laws passed in Colorado after the Aurora mass-shooting are substantially similar to the gun-safety laws in New York and Connecticut, which the Supreme Court just declined to challenge, then our laws too will probably go unchallenged by the high Court.  A probable win for gun-safety advocates.

And even this: California has strict restrictions on who can carry concealed weapons.  Those restrictions were challenged in court, in San Diego County and Yolo County.  In each case, the courts found the restrictions did not violate anyone’s Second Amendment rights (Peruta v. City of San Diego, Richards v. City of Yolo).  Concealed-carry is a privilege, not a right.  Big wins for gun-safety advocates.

Not surprisingly, those two rulings were challenged; and a three-judge panel ruled those decisions were wrong: the restrictions did violate the Second Amendment.  That decision was challenged, taken up by the whole Court of Appeals (a twelve-judge panel), and reversed: “there is no Second Amendment right for members of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public” (Peruta v. City of San Diego, pg. 3).  A big win for gun-safety advocates.

That decision will probably be challenged, up to the Supreme Court – but since the Court just declined to hear the challenge to the New York and Connecticut laws, it may decline to hear the challenge to this California law, too – which would be another win for gun-safety advocates.

Such a concealed-carry challenge could never happen here in Colorado, though, because our State Constitution already affirms there is no constitutional right carry a concealed weapon.  Read Article II, Sec. 13: “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; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons” (emphasis added).

Colorado may pass whatever concealed-carry restrictions it desires, because concealed-carry here is a privilege, not a constitutional right.  The only way that would change would be if the law were challenged by the Supreme Court, found to violate the Second Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, which is superior to our own – but that doesn’t seem likely to happen because the Court just declined to hear those other gun-safety cases.

And also again, the Supreme Court ruled (in Voisine et al. v. United States) to uphold the Constitutionality of federal laws which prohibit convicted domestic abusers from owning weapons, and even expanded the group of people prohibited from owning guns to include people convicted of reckless use of force. The Court’s logic: dangerous people should not own deadly weapons. Another win for gun-safety advocates.

So even though Congress won’t do anything – won’t pass any new gun-safety laws, even such widely popular ones as requiring background checks before all gun sales – the States have been active to fix these issues, and the Courts have been wise enough to uphold the Constitutionality of these gun-safety laws.

Checks and balances prevail.  Our courts will do what our Congress won’t: support gun-safety laws.

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