Denver Gazette: Gun control hits a wall in Colorado

Gun-control measures enacted in Boulder County have been placed on hold by the federal courts; left in doubt by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and, as reported in The Gazette last week, stymied even more amid further court developments here in Colorado.

All of which should prompt advocates of more restrictions on firearms to ponder shifting tack in the campaign to curb gun violence. If the courts are turning out to be no friends of more gun control, perhaps it’s time for policy makers to move beyond tilting at the Second Amendment.

How about focusing instead on steps that likely would draw little opposition while making a real difference — like beefing up security at our children’s schools? Let’s have more police deployed as school resource officers. And tighter limits on access during the school day. There’s even a program that has been training faculty and staff in firearms use if needed to defend kids at dozens of participating school districts around the state.

Such alternatives to more gun control make all the more sense considering the inherent futility of attempting to legislate an end to gun violence. Rebranding firearms as “assault rifles” and banning them; limiting the capacity of gun magazines, and other knee-jerk responses were always more about sending a message in the wake of a shooting tragedy than about providing any realistic hope of heading off the next one.

Last Friday, a federal judge declined to combine four different lawsuits brought by right-to-arms advocates against Boulder County and the cities of Boulder, Louisville and Superior. The local governments had enacted similar firearms regulations, including bans on large-capacity magazines and on so-called assault weapons.

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore, whose court is handling the lawsuit against Superior, declined that city’s request to merge all the court actions. The result could be conflicting rulings between various judges as to whether the local ordinances violate the Second Amendment. But as Moore observed, “if anyone thinks the district court is going to have the last say on this, they’re kidding themselves.” Perhaps there’s no harm, then, in giving each lawsuit its full day in court in light of the long legal journey that lies ahead.

The laws are not in effect thanks to court-issued restraining orders. That’s pending further proceedings and maybe even the resolution of the entire court challenge. Which could take years.

Underlying all of it is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which set a higher bar for gun restrictions to pass constitutional muster.

Given a new prevailing philosophy on the Second Amendment at the nation’s highest court — and lower courts’ pragmatic deference to it — the prospects for imposing new restrictions gun ownership appear a lot dimmer than they used to. Gun control could become the dog that won’t hunt.

Coloradans across the political spectrum should resolve to lower the odds of random violence where they can, in ways that actually work. Our schools — the scene of some of the worst shooting tragedies in Colorado and across the country — are a good place to start.

Denver Gazette Editorial Board