News 5 Investigates

Jul 22, 2014 11:36 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: Loopholes in Colorado gun laws

It's been one year since lawmakers approved controversial changes to our state's gun laws.

We pulled crime statistics across southern Colorado and noticed in some cases, crime involving guns went up after new laws were established.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office tells us that's because the laws only penalize law-abiding citizens, while letting the crooks slip through the cracks.

A widespread push from stricter gun laws put people in a panic last year. Many feared the government was infringing on their constitutional right to bear arms.

"All President Obama has to do is talk about banning assault rifles tonight and this weekend, half this stuff (rifles) will be gone," gun shop owner Mel Bernstein said.

Bernstein witnessed the chaos first hand, selling out of assault rifles and ammunition in the weeks before Colorado banned the sale of high-capacity magazines.

In July 2013, background checks for firearm transfers became mandatory, and the sale of magazines holding more than 15-rounds became illegal.

"The law enforcement I've talked to aren't going to enforce this because it's stupid," Bernstein said.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office agrees.

"Criminals don't go to a gun store and buy a gun," Sgt. Gregory White said. "That's not how they get their guns. They go to a guy on the street or they steal them from home burglaries and a background check has nothing to do with that."

Here's another loophole:

As long as 30-round magazines were purchased prior to July 2013, they're legal!

The sheriff's office admits there's no way to tell when the magazine was purchased.

'There's over 300,000 magazines like that in the state currently," Sgt. White said. It's a piece of metal and plastic and we're trying to regulate an object to stop crime."

Not a single law enforcement agency we pulled data from had written a citation or arrested a person for illegally possessing a high-capacity magazine.

This data includes statistics provided from the El Paso, Teller, Fremont and Pueblo County Sheriff's Offices, along with the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Colorado Springs police and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office also saw a slight spike in gun-related crime cases one year after new gun laws took effect.

July 2012-July 2013: 88 case reports
July 2013-July 2014: 95 case reports

July 2012-July 2013: 18 cases
July 2013-July 2014: 25 cases

Back at Bernstein's store where 30-round magazines are piled up in the back, he's found yet another loophole.

"We could take a cap, drill a hole after 15 rounds and put it in and weld it and now it's a 15-round magazine," Bernstein explained. "It only takes 3-seconds to change the magazine so all you need is a belt of 15-round magazines and you can shoot 400 rounds in 1 minute."

More than 50 sheriff's planned to sue the State of Colorado to get rid of the new gun laws they call "useless". A judge ruled the sheriffs had no legal standing to sue in their official capacity, but could join as private citizens. Only 10 sheriffs ended up suing as private citizens.

Last month, a federal judge upheld the new gun control laws.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office says the case is being appealed, but Doug Schepman, communications director for the Colorado Senate Majority says no appeal has been filed with the AG's Office.

We will keep you updated on the lawsuit as new information becomes available.

News 5 requested enforcement and shooting statistics from the Pueblo Police Department. However, the department said they do not easily track these statistics and wanted to charge us a fee to conduct research. News 5 declined this offer. 




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