Yesterday, as you may already be aware, the Colorado House of Representatives held the ‘third reading’ for HB 13-1224, a measure to limit magazine capacity. The vote passed 34:31 and will now be pushed on to the Colorado State Senate.
Other gun control issues aside (though by no means to marginalize them) this will be of significance to Kit Up! readers because it centers around MagPul Industries Corporation, manufacturer of the PMag. MagPul is based in Erie, Colorado, and will obviously be impacted severely if the 13-1224 becomes law (this despite transparently self-serving last minute attempts on the part of supporting legislators to provide an exemption for manufacture). The significance of this lies on several levels, from that of the national debate on gun control to the impact on an individual’s ability to purchase the kit he or she wants at a time when magazines are already in short supply (and potentially those already owned).
As you might expect, it is difficult for me to write in such a way as to distinguish reporting from advocacy. In the larger context of the debate and from the perspective of constructive support (on whichever side) I think it is vital for all involved to leave visceral reaction aside and attempt to address all aspects as respectfully as possible. Unfortunately there seems to be little willingness to do that. This is without a doubt an extremely polarizing issue that has been given very little opportunity for true discussion, which by no means eliminates the need for rational discourse.
This particular article is going to address HB 13-1224 specifically, though it must at least tangentially discuss the three other bills that were approved yesterday.There are a number of reasons the successful passage of 1224 and its fellows are significant, not least of which are concerns as to its Constitutionality and its importance to the national debate. The White House is keeping a close eye on the status of these bills; according to the Denver Post, VPOTUS Biden was in communication with several Democratic Representatives in Colorado on Friday.
MagPul is a ‘household name’ in our demographic and it is at the center of the 13-1224 furor and despite some odd, even silly allegations to the contrary they’ve made it very clear they will halt operations and move to a different state if the law passes.
MagPul was founded in 1999 by a Marine Corps veteran and has become virtually synonymous for polymer magazines, magazine accessories and what is called firearm ‘furniture’ in our tactical parlance. MagPul is a self-described “proud Colorado company” that has a significant economic impact in the state (though estimates vary, most agree that it would bring $80-$90 million dollars to the Colorado economy in 2013, not counting payroll).
13-1224 bears more than a passing similarity to the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, Missouri’s recently introduced House Bill 545 and a package of 10 bills put forth by Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento in the state of California (and the one in Minnesota, and Washington, et al). As with other such discussions at both State and Federal level, HB-1224 and its fellows are either being both hailed as a common sense life saving measure or declaimed as an impractical, unenforceable intrusion on the Second Amendment with no impact on public safety. The progress of these bills, and 13-224 in particular, are being closely watched across the country by both pro-gun control and anti-gun control people alike as a key indicator in the national debate.
[Note: The New York Safe Act limited magazine capacity to 7 rounds, broadened the definition of the term ‘assault weapon’ and enacted other steps making it one of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. Missouri’s HB-1224 is similar in many ways and includes one phrase in particular that makes it appear providing justification and cause for firearm confiscation in any cases where the weapons in question are not removed from the state or rendered inoperable within 90 days.]
The four bills on their way to the Senate now are HB 13-1229, which would require a background check for all gun transactions; House Bill 13-1226, which would eliminate concealed carry on ‘higher education’ campuses and college premises; HB 13-1228, which would institute a fee on background checks to cover costs incurred by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) processing all firearm purchases (estimated to be approximately $1.6 million) and perhaps the most controversial and hotly debated one of the four, HB 13-1224, which now limits magazine capacity to 15 rounds. This number appears to be arbitrary, and wasn’t always certain. There was a period of time when they discussed an 11 round capacity.
HB 13-1224 was sponsored by Rep. Rhonda Fields (D House District 42, Aurora), who described it as an “incremental approach” to limiting gun violence, clearly referring in her closing remarks to more measures to come—something that will clearly worry opponents of gun control in Colorado and other states. Her overriding concern, as she explains it, was not to provide a ‘feel good measure’ but to legitimately reduce gun violence.
“Our schools are sacred places, our malls our sacred places, our churches are sacred places,” she said. “…no one should have these high capacity magazines to kill as many people as they can…”
State Rep. Edward Vigil (D-Fort Garland) disagreed, saying he believed ‘high capacity magazines’ were being “demonized” and that that CO should vote no on the measure. He spoke to the fact that criminals were unlikely to abide by a law and any case and suggested instead a law against criminal gangs and efforts to improve mental health efforts, urging a no vote and asking that no vote be made on emotion.
Other opponents of the bill articulated various studies, including those by the CDC and the NIJ, that show no correlation between gun control laws and the crime rate. They also pointed out flaws in the bill that would make it unenforceable and impractical and its disregard for the Second Amendment, and criticized the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of a last minute provision that would allow the manufacture of such magazines in the state despite their being illegal for Colorado citizens. This adjustment has been largely seen as an effort to retain the advantage of having Colorado based magazine manufacturers in the local while removing them from the hands of Colorado citizens.
"Apparently, they (high-capacity magazines) are not instruments of destruction when they're purchased outside the borders of Colorado," said Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.
“[This law]…will not limit our Second Amendment Rights, it will infringe them,” said State Rep. Jared Wright (R-Fruita). Wright is a former law enforcement officer who spoke at length to the fallacy of believing magazine limitations would increase public safety.
Passage of the third reading in the House today was preceded by ‘second reading’ on Friday, where over six hours were spent debating 13-1224 on the floor. Opponents of the bill fear it is likely to be approved by the Senate and become law. Kit Up readers who follow social media sites and ‘tactical news’ sources know opposition to the measure has largely been led by MagPul.
MagPul disagrees with any assertions that so-called “high capacity magazines” (which might more properly be called standard capacity magazines) contribute to gun violence and that any measures to restrict them would be not only improper Constitutionally but dramatically significant economically—not just to their company, which they readily acknowledge, but to the greater community of with they are a part.
“We have a pretty uphill battle in the Senate,” says MagPul’s Duane Liptak, Director of Product Management and Marketing. “We’re making our arguments, explaining that this bill doesn’t improve public safety in any way shape or form, that it isn’t practical or enforceable and…that it doesn’t hurt anyone except those who are law abiding, but…”
“What is the functionality of this?” Rep. Wright asked the assembled Colorado House. “How does this improve public safety in the State of Colorado?” In his and others’ opinion, magazine restrictions would do nothing to actually improve the safety of Coloradans, and that there was no way to determine the legality of a magazine in question anyway—no way to identify whether a magazine had been manufactured prior to the proposed law, or if it had been purchased in Utah (for instance) and brought back into the state. He went on to chastise both sides of the debate, expressing his distaste for the “…the invocation of the images of dead children on both sides…” when arguing their case.
Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) acknowledged she had no study showing definitively that magazines would “stop the killing”, but “[she believes it to be]…a constructive and necessary first step.” She addressed what she described as “straw man arguments” like vehicle deaths and tractor rollovers by articulating methods developed to counter them, such as airbags and seatbelts.
“High capacity magazine are commonly used in gun crimes and police murders [and are involved in] at least14-26% of gun crimes,” said Beth McCann (D – House District 8, Denver). She went on to describe the use of “high capacity magazines” in the Aurora theater shooting, citing the use of a 100 round drum in that event, and then listed a series of homicides she advised involved such magazines. Rep. McCann describes the reduction of magazine capacity to a maximum of 15 rounds as a common sense limitation.
MagPul has made it clear they will leave Colorado if the law passes, in their social media and a press release. They are receiving widespread support across the firearm and tactical industry for their stand and are being lauded for their leadership. In addition to empirical arguments about possible practical results on public safety and violence MagPul has addressed the financial repercussions with the voice of a proud Colorado company.
“We’ve tried to make this argument from an economic standpoint,” Liptak explains, “and it [the decision to move manufacturing out of Colorado] was not an easy decision to make. This will be an incredible disruption for our employees if we have to displace…it wasn’t made lightly, but we have a moral obligation to do it.
Rep. Lori Saine (R-House District 63), in whose district MagPul is located, spoke succinctly after a short break. “This bill is a jobs killer,” she said, “I urge a no vote.”
MagPul employs 200 people directly, and counting sub-contractors and service providers in the Denver area provides employment to at least another 400 jobs. Not counting payroll, they put $46 million into the Colorado economy in 2012 and is projected to increase that to an estimated $85 million in 2013.
I spoke with Rep. Saine after Friday’s debate and she clarified that number. “It would actually take a projected $98 million out of the state over the next year,” she said. When I asked if the bill’s proponents had ever addressed the economic implications she and other legislators had brought up, she replied “Of course not, there’s nothing to say.”
Though I watched several hours of the debate on Friday and more yesterday, I never heard proponents of the bill address the economic ramifications. To be fair, they may be taking the stance that a reduction in violence is more important than monetary considerations, but if so it would have been nice for them to articulate that. Sadly, given the hyperbolae and some factual inconsistencies I observed, it seems more likely they just didn’t want to be on record making such statements in a time when the entire economy is lagging and unemployment is so high.
“They did put an exemption in for manufacturers,” Liptak says, “but that’s not something MagPul can do, not from an ethical standpoint or a business standpoint. Citizens can’t own our products but we’ll continue to make them and just ship them out of state? We can’t do that, it’s not right, and besides people would boycott us out of principal and…we don’t blame them. We aren’t bluffing, though apparently some legislators believe we are; we’ll have production up and running before the enactment of the bill if that is what it comes to.”
“This bill does not require or force any company to leave Colorado,” Rep. McCann noted. “The bill explicitly now indicates the companies can continue to manufacture these and deliver them outside the state…”
To that statement Mr. Liptak responded, “If this passes, remaining in Colorado is just not an option for us.”
Asked where they might go, he would not say for sure, explaining, “We’ve been courted by several states with amenable gun laws and the sort of culture we want to be a part of with our tax dollars and jobs. We love Colorado, the culture personal responsibility and personal freedom here…it’s now just…certainly not in keeping with the values of the great American west.”
Pro gun control social media sites have widely referred to the successful passage of these four bills, in particular the magazine restrictions, to the next step towards law as a hopeful precursor to similar efforts in other states or at the Federal level.
The Denver Post has reported that Vice President Joe Biden contacted several Colorado Democratic lawmakers on Friday after 13-1224 passed second reading. Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs), described their conversation. “He said it would send a strong message to the rest of the country that a Western state had passed gun-control bills,” Exum said.
As of this writing my e-mails to Representative Fields, private messages left on her Facebook page and phone calls have all gone unanswered.
MagPul has not decided where they will be moving if 13-1224 becomes law, but no matter what happens, even if the measure fails to pass the Colorado Senate, but whatever happens things are going to become even more controversial—and PMags and MagPul furniture even harder to get.