Differences in Colorado’s Mag Ban v. Federal Mag Ban

A reader had a good question in the comments yesterday that I thought would warrant a separate and hopefully not too rambling post. He asked, given that the “readily restored” language is nothing new, why we’re concerned about this in Colorado right now. There is, starting out, a slight difference in the language between the Colorado ban and the now expired federal ban. The federal ban covers “readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition,” while the Colorado bans any magazine “that is designed to be readily converted to accept, more than fifteen rounds of ammunition.”

When it came to the federal ban, what the term meant was generally something left up to the regulating agency, which for federal purposes would be BATFE. The Courts will generally defer to the agencies interpretation of what these terms mean. Courts will also look toward legislative intent, as in what did the legislature intend to do, when determining the meaning of specific language. During the federal ban, the ATF never took the position that “readily restored or converted,” meant that any magazine with a detachable floor plate would be contraband. I don’t think, under the federal ban, there was ever a case of someone getting busted for a magazine extension, but to some degree during the federal ban you possessed these things at your own risk. It’s just that the feds never chose to pursue an interpretation of the ban that covered magazines with detachable floor plates.

Anyone looking to understand the issues at hand in Colorado ought to read the federal complaint challenging the Colorado law. The issue in Colorado is somewhat different, because the legislature did not give any regulatory body the power to make regulation as to what was or wasn’t covered. If you look at the law itself, regulatory power was only granted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for the purpose of regulating the marking of magazines. That means whether a magazine is contraband or not is going to be up to individual prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, and then the courts will have to sort out the meaning. In addition, both Governor Hickenlooper and the chief sponsor of the Colorado magazine ban have stated that magazines with detachable floor plates are covered by their ban. This means that anyone prosecuted for having, say, a Glock 19 magazine, which has a detachable floor plate and holds 15 rounds, would have a steep hill to climb to argue in Court that it would not be covered under the ban.

It should also be noted that the federal ban would likely have been vulnerable to the kind of challenge currently being waged in the federal courts in Colorado right now, it’s just that we did not have a remedy under the Second Amendment at any time during which the federal ban was in place, because Heller had not yet been decided in favor of an individual right.

3 Responses to “Differences in Colorado’s Mag Ban v. Federal Mag Ban”

  1. Archer says:

    I’ve had this debate with a family member (generally VERY liberal), and he usually takes the position that – when determining what is “designed to be readily converted to accept, more than fifteen rounds of ammunition” – the manufacturer’s intent will be a factor. Did the manufacturer intentionally design it to be readily convertible? Or, did they design it to be easily maintainable, and the after-market companies merely took advantage of the existing design to create extension kits?

    I argue that legally, it’s a distinction without a difference, and the magazines’ owners will be charged anyway, simply because they are readily convertible (with after-market parts), regardless of the manufacturer’s specific intent; if they specifically intended for it to be NON-convertible, it wouldn’t have a detachable floor plate.

    Legally, the manufacturer’s intent is far less important than the legislature’s and governor’s intents.

  2. It is also worth noting that during CO state senate testimony it was pointed out multiple times that the ban included any mag with a floorplate style design, and the Senate went forward with that language regardless with full knowledge of the verbiage’s consequences.

  3. James says:

    It’s also important to note that Colorado is the first state to pass a ban which does away with any transferability of the newly banned magazines. Under the ’94 AWB you could buy magazines manufactured before the ban took effect. Under the Colorado ban, I can’t sell my magazines if I choose to sell my firearm, and I can’t transfer them to my children or wife when I die- they have to be sold out of state or turned into the state for destruction.

    It’s confiscation, just with a long timetable…