Six months after the implementation of strict new gun control laws in Colorado, customers may find a change in their local gun shops. Gone are the familiar 30-round magazines that are now prohibited by state law, along with any magazine capable of holding more than 15 rounds. Many stores now sell handguns and rifles without magazines at all, leaving it up to the customer to procure them elsewhere. It is one of the most visible signs of change since Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a historic gun control package into law last March, as data from state police departments show that the laws seem to having little—if any—discernible effect.
Two of the most controversial laws in the package, which limited magazine capacity and expanded background checks to private sales, seemed to have a marginal effect on gun ownership overall. Instead, the laws’ passage provoked what is being called the best year for gun retailers in the state. According to The Denver Post, there were 396,955 background checks in Colorado over the course of 2013. This topped 2012’s 343,302 background checks, which the Colorado Bureau of Investigation already considered a record.
In comparison, the expanded background check law accounted for only an additional 6,198 applications for private sales after law went into effect in July.
The overall denial rate for background checks in 2013 was 1.9 percent, lower than before the new law kicked in. The denial rate for applications in 2012 was 2.1 percent.
As for the 15-round cap on magazines, state police officials say that there have been few recorded violations. This is partially due to the fact that many law enforcement officials refuse to enforce the new law due to what they believe is a vague and impractical regulation. At least 55 of the state’s 62 sheriffs say they have no plans to enforce the magazine limit, or will be treating it as a low priority at best.
“Law enforcement officers carry high capacity magazines because there are times when 10 rounds might not be enough to end the threat. County Sheriffs of Colorado believe the same should hold true for civilians who wish to defend themselves, especially if attacked by multiple assailants,” said County Sheriffs of Colorado, an association based in Littleton.
Colorado State Patrol spokespeople told The Coloradoan that they knew of no cases of gun owners being cited for having a prohibited magazine.
Law enforcement officials explained that a large reason for this is because of practical issues with the new law. One problem that makes the law “unenforceable” is the fact that it is very difficult to identify whether an “offending” magazine was purchased before or after the ban.
Some Colorado lawmakers are attempting to repeal the magazine limit with a bill currently under consideration, HB 1151. If successful, it will still come too late to stop some pro-gun businesses from leaving the state. Earlier this year, Magpul, a notable firearms accessories manufacturer, announced that they will be relocating to Texas and Wyoming.