Colorado Supreme Court takes aim at gun rights, agrees to take CU Gun Ban case

No man’s life, liberty, property, or constitutional rights are safe while the Colorado Supreme Court is in session.”  (With apologies to Mark Twain)

Clear The Bench Colorado has tracked the threat posed by the Colorado Supreme Court to our constitutional right to keep and bear arms in Colorado for some time (including attempts to levy what amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax on firearms sales and permits, the CU Regents ban on responsible and licensed concealed-carry and the more recent attempted CSU campus ban on concealed carry, along with debates and recent developments in both cases).  After the CU Board of Regents voted to appeal the ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals which in April struck down the University of Colorado ban on licensed permit-holders carrying firearms on campus (Court tosses CU gun ban), we warned Coloradans that another attack on our constitutional and statutory rights was coming.

On Monday, the opening salvo of that attack arrived, as the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to consider the CU Regents appeal of last April’s ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals (which upheld state law and the rights of Colorado citizens against CU’s illegal concealed carry ban covering all campus areas).

The CU Board of Regents legal brief to the Colorado Supreme Court is due in approximately 40 days; the brief of the respondents (SCCC, represented by the Mountain States Legal Foundation) along with any amicus curiae (“friend of court”) briefs are due 30 days after that.

The composition of the court (and thus, the likelihood of the law being followed in ruling on this case) may experience a change as a result of the intervening elections…

As Clear The Bench Colorado noted at the time, the Court of Appeals ruling was both legally sound and clear in its rejection of the CU Board’s assertion of extra-constitutional authority:

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the University of Colorado has no authority to bar students or visitors from lawfully carrying guns on campus. [Ed. emphasis added]

Note that the CU Board of Regents is asserting its authority to ban licensed concealed carry not just by students, but by ANY responsible adult who has undergone the background checks and training (and mounds of paperwork) to apply for and receive a license to carry concealed – on ANY CU property.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruling in the case highlights the critical importance of judges who rule in accordance with the law (especially the Constitution, which exists to protect the rights of individuals and limit the power of government) and underlines the fact that Colorado does have many such judges at various levels (including Judge Christine Habas, who ruled – correctly – that the Mill Levy Tax Freeze” was unconstitutional before being overturned by the Mullarkey Majority).  Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough of them (good judges, that is) on the Colorado Supreme Court.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruling in the case also substantiated our assertion that the CU and CSU bans violate “the clear letter and intent of the statute authorizing statewide standards and universal application for concealed-carry permits

18-12-214. Authority granted by permit – carrying restrictions.

(1) (a) A permit to carry a concealed handgun authorizes the permittee to carry a concealed handgun in all areas of the state, except as specifically limited in this section.

The Colorado Court of Appeals could not have been more clear in upholding that view, and went further in upholding the constitutional right of Colorado citizens to bear arms in self-defense:

Because the statute expressly applies to “all areas of the state,” we conclude that plaintiffs have stated a claim for relief under the CCA. We further conclude that plaintiffs have stated a claim for relief under Colorado Constitution article II, section 13, which affords individuals the right to bear arms in self-defense.

The Colorado Supreme Court decision to hear the CU Regents appeal of this ruling puts another set of Coloradans’ constitutional rights at risk.

There is a great deal more at stake than the relatively narrow issue of whether responsible adults can be denied the exercise of their rights (licensed concealed-carry pursuant to state law) – as if that wasn’t important enough.  In hearing the case, the Colorado Supreme Court will also rule on whether state law, as a matter of principle and precedent, can be ignored by certain quasi-governmental entities (such as the CU Board of Regents).  Most importantly, the Colorado Supreme Court will rule on the standard of review for laws regulating the right to bear arms (or any constitutional rights) in Colorado.

The Colorado Court of Appeals held (correctly, in my view and the view of most legal scholars) that the standard of review for assessing the law, and CU’s attempt to ignore state law via an illegal gun ban (and for reviewing any law regulating any constitutional right) is the “reasonable exercise” standard (in other words, is the law a “reasonable exercise” of the government’s authority to restrict a constitutional right).  The CU Regents argue (and the Colorado Supreme Court’s Mullarkey Majority has in the past agreed) that the standard for legal review should be the “rational basis” standard of review (which gives virtually unlimited deference, and leeway, to the ability of government to pass laws restricting the ability of individuals to exercise their constitutional rights).  Adoption of that standard in this case would set a very dangerous precedent, and would effectively nullify the Colorado Constitution’s recognition of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

This case – and so many others of this nature – isn’t about guns; it’s about freedoms.  Allowing the government to pass laws further restricting our rights (or allowing courts to unilaterally impose new laws or restrictions by re-writing or interpreting our rights out of existence) runs counter to the very foundations and ideals of this country.

Our Constitution is the Citizens’ rulebook for government – restricting the powers and authority of government to rule our lives.  It is what distinguishes us as Americans from the historical example of every other nation on earth: we are Citizens, not subjects.

Our courts – sworn to uphold our Constitution and act as protectors of our constitutional rights – must occasionally be reminded of that fact.

Stick to your guns – Defend YOUR constitutional and statutory rights, and exercise YOUR right to vote “NO” on retaining the 4 (er, 3 remaining) ‘unjust justices’ of the Mullarkey Majority (Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right of self-defense, your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from government abuse of eminent domain powers, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, not rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”

Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!), your contributions, and your “NO” vote in November 2010 to keep these unjust justices from returning for another 10-year term!

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