A federal court ruling has drawn a clearer line between the right to guns for law-abiding citizens – and the need for strict laws to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. The ruling underscores the folly of the Colorado legislature in watering down these laws.
As our news partner Colorado Politics reported, the US District Court in Denver earlier this month dismissed a felon’s attempt to invoke a recent, landmark US Supreme Court decision to clear himself of federal gun charges. Perrion Gray, a previously convicted felon on charges of possession of a firearm, claimed that the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc.’s June verdict against Bruen barred his criminal prosecution.
That ruling stated that restrictions on the possession and use of firearms are permissible only if they are “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of regulating firearms.” Gray’s attorney argued in his motion to dismiss the firearms case that the Bruen case required courts to assess the constitutionality of gun laws against regulations that were “widely accepted and generally accepted” at the time the Second Amendment was passed.
US District Judge Charlotte N. Sweeney didn’t believe it – because the Bruen case doesn’t apply to criminals. Indeed, restrictions on criminals have a long history in the US, Sweeney noted, siding with Assistant US Attorney Conor A. Flanigan.
As Flanigan put it, “Because he is not a law-abiding citizen, the defendant had no right to own a firearm.”
Well, if only our state legislatures paid attention – and gave Colorado law some clout. After all, such restrictions only make sense. Restricting criminals’ access to firearms, even after they have served their time in prison, serves public safety.
And yet, ironically, a 2021 measure passed by the ruling Democrats to the Legislature leaves major loopholes in the state’s version of federal law. The legislature decided to allow convicted drug dealers, car thieves and many other criminals to legally own firearms. It used to be a serious crime when people who had committed such crimes were found with a gun even after they were released.
The change was part of the legislature’s ruthless “judicial reform” agenda, which systematically lowers sentences and reduces incarceration for a variety of crimes, from drug possession to auto theft to the possession of firearms by criminal convicts.
Police have been frustrated by the change, which deprives them of another tool to counter Colorado’s crime wave. The state’s fentanyl epidemic and its dubious record as the nation’s auto-theft capital, among other facets of the crime wave, are driven in large part by repeat offenders — who are often armed.
Now, if they are caught using your car parked in your driveway, the fact that they are armed cannot lead to additional charges.
Judge Sweeney’s ruling reminds us that there is a long-standing public interest in disarming, and maintaining disarmed, criminal convicts — even when law-abiding citizens enjoy their constitutionally protected right to bear arms. It’s just too bad our legislature has put the public interest aside in favor of the criminal.