Judge Rules Colorado Sheriffs Can't Sue Over State Gun Laws

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that Colorado sheriffs suing the state over gun prohibition laws passed earlier this year have no standing to proceed with their case as a group. However, the ruling is not dampering their legal battle.

The Associated Press reports:

Colorado Gun Laws Sheriffs.JPEG-07b4dThe ruling from U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger in Denver doesn't stop the lawsuit because 21 other plaintiffs who are suing do have standing. The court will still consider whether universal background checks and a ban on ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds are constitutional, the judge said.

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"At this juncture, the court is not even considering whether the challenged portions of the laws are constitutional," Krieger said.

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In her ruling, Krieger said sheriffs can still choose to join the suit in an individual capacity, and they'll have 14 days to make that decision. But they cannot, as a group, sue the state in their official capacities.

"If individual sheriffs wish to protect individual rights or interests they may do so ... however, the sheriffs have confused their individual rights and interests with those of the county sheriff's office," Krieger said.


Krieger also ruled in favor of part of the technical guidance that the state offered to implement the law when it comes to what it means for a magazine to be "readily convertible." The guidance outlined that magazines that have removable baseplates won't be considered part of ban and won't be seen as being adaptable to hold more rounds than what the law allows.

Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman with the Colorado attorney general's office, said "We are pleased that the court recognized that many of the plaintiffs had no standing to bring this case and that our interpretation of the law is proper."

"We hope to have the important constitutional question that remains resolved quickly and properly," Tyler added.

While the sheriffs as a group were prohibited from suing the state, they still have the option open to sue individually, which does appear to be how they are going to move.

According to an attorney for the sheriffs, Richard Westfall, he took some comfort in the fact that the sheriffs can pursue their lawsuit as individuals.

“The two laws are still subject to being challenged on constitutional grounds,” Westfall said.

It seems, at least according to how Judge Kreiger perceives things that state subdivisions are prohibited from using federal law to sue each other. According to courts that have ruled on this type of issue, allowing lawsuits of this nature under federal law would, in effect, permit Congress to encroach in matters of the state. (As if they aren't doing that already.)

Kreiger wrote in her ruling:

This doctrine is an important limitation on the power of the federal government. It guarantees that a federal court will not resolve certain disputes between a state and local government. A political subdivision may seek redress against its parent state for violation of a state Constitution, but the political subdivision cannot invoke (nor can a federal court impose) the protections of the United States Constitution for individuals against a state. . . . With regard to its own subdivisions, power of the state is unrestrained by the Fourteenth Amendment.

So ultimately 21 of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit can continue to move forward and the 55 sheriffs will either have to move on, or refile their lawsuit.

The new gun laws produced several recalls, including Colorado Senators John Morse and Angela Giron, who were both kicked out of office. The latest pursuit of recall is Colorado Senator Evie Hudak. Even calls for secession went forth and a vote was taken to make North Colorado the 51st state. Five counties in rural Colorado voted to approve the creation of a 51st state on Election Day this year.

I have to hand it to the Colorado sheriffs and the rural Coloradans who understand that tyranny is on their doorstep and they are not willing to go quietly into the night.

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