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First High-Capacity Magazine Charge Filed

Northern Colorado Sees its First Large-Capacity Magazine Criminal Charge

Since its adoption more than two years ago, the controversial law banning magazines with more than a 15-round capacity has not been used to charge anyone in this part of the State – until now.

The Larimer County District Attorney filed the charge October 26, 2015, against 29-year-old David Moscow.  Moscow had been seeking readmission to the Front Range Community College in Fort Collins and was upset that he was probably going to be denied.  He became disgruntled and a psychologist reported him to police, saying he was making threats about shooting a security guard and burning down a building at the community college if administrators didn’t re-enroll him.  He was subsequently arrested.

While he was on a 72-hour hold for mental evaluation, investigators searched his home and vehicle and found an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a Glock .40-caliber handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. In addition, they found multiple large-capacity magazines for both firearms.  Moscow is a convicted felon and it is illegal for him to possess firearms.

Prosecutors have charged Moscow for possessing the high-capacity magazines. Under Colorado Revised Statute 18-12-302, a person who sells, transfers or possesses a large-capacity magazine that is designed to accept or can be converted to hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition commits a Class 2 misdemeanor, the exception being if the individual owned the magazine prior to July 1, 2013.  However, the burden is on the prosecution to prove you did not own the magazines prior to the ban and that you if you did own them prior, that you did not possess them continuously since the ban went into effect.

The legislative move in 2013 came in the wake of multiple mass shootings across the country — interest spiked after the shooting spree in Newtown, Conn. The Colorado march was led by Democrats and was met by fierce opposition among some Colorado leaders.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, for instance, lobbied against stricter gun control measures, and after the bill was signed into law, Smith maintained the laws were unenforceable. Other law enforcement officials elsewhere in the state have vowed not to enforce the laws because they were too vague, cumbersome and, they said, infringed on Second Amendment rights.

“Even if you believe the restrictions were reasonable or effective, you also have to essentially find a receipt proving when the individual came into possession of the magazines,” he said.

Northern Colorado residents can make the short trip into Wyoming to buy magazines that hold more than 15 rounds, effectively skirting the sale bans.

“The truth is that magazine restrictions are about as effective at deterring criminals as gun free zones. Both can make certain people feel good, but in the end, they do nothing to protect the community,” Smith wrote in an email recently.

While he commended Fort Collins police for their work on the case, he said time will tell how the prosecution pans out on the magazine charge. Felons are already banned from possessing firearms. This charge adds a new element that has to be proven.

What makes this slightly more interesting to watch is the grandfather clause issue. Magazines manufactured and possessed prior to July, 2013 are 100% legal, which means in order to make their case,the prosecution will need to establish precisely when the magazine was purchased and whether the individual charged bought it more recently. Exactly how they go about doing that will give us an idea of how they plan on prosecuting others in the future.

While the facts of this case are not ideal for those wanting to challenge the law, it at least gives some idea as to how prosecutors will go forth procedurally.

It was not immediately clear how often, if ever, the charge has been administered in counties outside of Northern Colorado.

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