DENVER–As expected, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three gun-control bills into law Wednesday, and as expected, the fallout was immediate.
Within hours, gun-rights advocates had launched a three-prong attack on the Democratic legislature’s gun-control package, vowing to battle the measures on the legal, economic and political fronts.
Independence Institute president Jon Caldara announced Wednesday that the free-market think-tank would head up a legal challenge against the bills.
Meanwhile, Magpul Industries confirmed in a Facebook post that the company would make good on its promise to leave Colorado if the bill to limit magazine capacity were signed.
“Our transition to a new home will occur in a phased and orderly a manner to allow us to continue to serve our customers during the move, as well as to allow an orderly transition for affected employees,” said the Wednesday post. “We are actively working on those plans.”
On the political front, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners kicked off a petition drive to repeal the newly signed measures. Another group, SaveOurShotguns.org, has already begun gathering signatures to repeal House Bill 1224, the magazine-capacity bill.
Gun-rights groups have also targeted for defeat Democrats from rural or swing districts who voted in favor of all or some of the gun-control bills. Among those expected to face difficult reelection fights in 2014 are state Sens. Michael McLachlan (D-Durango), Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and Jeanne Nicholson (D-Gilpin County).
“We have said for years that Colorado is the national test case to turn a freedom-loving western state into a progressive stronghold,” said Caldara in an email. “Today Colorado citizens learned the hard way that elections have consequences. Today our governor cemented our path to become California.
But I guarantee you, this fight has just begun.”
He said the lawsuit would be filed on behalf of a coalition that includes “local and national law enforcement, including many of the sheriffs who opposed the bills, disability-rights organizations, gun-safety organizations, civil-rights organizations, and others.”
Caldara said the lead attorney on the case would be David Kopel, the institute’s policy director and a nationally recognized expert on the Second Amendment. Kopel has described the magazine bill as a “grotesque overreach.”
The three bills signed by the governor will ban the sale and transfer of ammunition magazines that hold or can be readily converted to more than 15 rounds; mandate universal background checks for gun sales and transfers, and require gun buyers to pay for their background checks.
Critics argue that the magazine bill is drafted so carelessly that as it stands, the measure would make it a crime to hand almost any ammunition clip to another person unless that person underwent a background check first.
At least two county sheriffs have said the measure is unenforceable. At a press conference Wednesday following the signing ceremony, Hickenlooper appeared to acknowledge concerns about the bills by saying he would issue a “signing statement” on the advice of the Attorney General’s office explaining what they do and don’t do.
“There’s always a way to misconstrue the actual words. What we want to do is just provide a little clarity,” said Hickenlooper. “I don’t think our signing statement is going to satisfy everybody, but it should certainly lay out to a lot of people that, ‘This is our intent. This is what we’re trying to get done.’”
The governor defended the decision to sign the magazine-limit bill even after Magpul announced it would relocate if the bill became law. The Erie-based company employs 200 people directly and supports another 400 supply-chain jobs.
“Those are 200 people who go to work every day, and if Magpul decides they do indeed have to leave, that’s a hardship, that’s difficult,” said Hickenlooper. “In any difficult piece of legislation, there’s pluses and minuses.”
Despite the backlash, the governor said he believed most Coloradans would agree that the legislation’s pros outstripped the cons.
“There’s costs and benefits,” said Hickenlooper. “We wanted to make sure the benefits outweighed the costs. I think they clearly do.”
Others disagree. Michael Bane, executive producer of the Outdoor Channel, had also vowed to relocate production of four television programs from Colorado to other states if the bills were signed.
“So Governor Hickenlooper signed all the gun laws on his desk, citing ‘widespread support.’ Right,” said Bane in a Wednesday post. “This whole process has been a quilt of lies. Obviously, we look toward both the legal challenges in the courts and the elections in 2014.”