DENVER — New limits on ammunition magazines will continue in Colorado while sheriffs seek to overturn the law in court after attorneys in the case said Wednesday they had agreed on some technical fixes in the meantime.
Attorneys for the sheriffs were in court seeking a preliminary injunction on the law that bans magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. But a federal judge in Denver said there was nothing for her to rule on because attorneys for the state and the sheriffs had hammered out an agreement late Tuesday.
The Attorney General's Office drafted clarifying language of the new law outlining which magazines will fall under the ban and both sides agreed to it, saying it had the force law.
"That being the case, there is nothing for this court to enjoin," said U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger in a swift hearing that lacked the intensity that has underscored the gun-control debate for almost a year here.
The law, passed after mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut, went into effect July 1, along with expanded background checks to include online and private firearm sales. The laws were major victories for Colorado Democrats, who rallied majorities in the House and Senate this spring to pass it without Republican support.
Sheriffs in 55 of Colorado's 64 counties filed a lawsuit in May, saying they violate the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms. Most of the sheriffs behind the lawsuit represent rural, gun-friendly parts of the state.
At issue Wednesday was the new magazine law. The lawsuit contends the statute lacks clarity because it bans magazines that are "designed to be readily converted" to hold more than 15 rounds.
Both sides agreed 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. Attorneys also agreed to clarifying language about what happens to larger magazines that were grandfathered in. People who temporarily hand a larger magazine to a shop owner, for example, won't be deemed to have lost "continuous possession" of it in violation of the law.
The agreement means both sides could focus on the larger issues of the lawsuit, attorneys said.
"Being able to agree to that, we hope will move things along, let us move on to discussing the Second Amendment aspects of this case in the future," said Dan Domenico, the solicitor general representing the state.
A trial date has not been set.
"We fixed two problems, two of the lesser problems on the bad law, and the core problem with the bad law is what we'll be going to trial about," said David Kopel, an attorney representing the sheriffs.
The sheriffs decided not to pursue a preliminary injunction for the expanded background checks, given the complexity of the new law and limited time at Wednesday's hearing. Kopel said it's more appropriate to address the background checks at trial.
Democrats argue both laws will improve public safety and are an appropriate response to the massacres at an Aurora movie theater last July and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.
"Over the months and years ahead, these high-capacity magazines, whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of people in seconds, will be gradually removed from our streets and neighborhoods," said Tom Mauser, whose son, Daniel, was killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.
As the gun debate moves along in the courts, lawmakers are dealing with the political ramifications. Two Democrats — Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron — face potential recall elections because they supported the laws.
There has never been a recall election for a Colorado state legislator.