GLENDALE, Colo. - Two days before Colorado’s new gun-control laws take effect, Magpul Industries decided to mark the occasion by flooding the state with thousands of soon-to-be-outlawed ammunition magazines.
An estimated 5,000 gun rights advocates lined up hours in advance Saturday to score 20,000 free and discounted 30-round ammunition magazines at “A Farewell to Arms,” billed as a “freedom festival” for those disenchanted with the state legislature’s aggressive gun control push.
“We’ve come to stock up … but we’re also here to send a loud, friggin’ clear message to the politicians of this state: Colorado belongs to us and not to [New York Mayor] Michael Bloomberg,” said Kelly Maher, spokeswoman for Free Colorado, which organized the festival.
The highlight of the event came as a Magpul helicopter landed near the field, dropping off boxes of magazines along with keynote speaker Dana Loesch, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host based in St. Louis.
Magpul, a Colorado manufacturer of firearms accessories, announced that it would relocate after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three gun control bills in March. One of the measures would ban sales of magazines with more than 15 rounds, but any magazines purchased before July 1 are exempt.
“I didn’t realize that you all were rolling in cash money over here in Colorado that the state legislature could just run off perfectly good business,” Ms. Loesch said. “[Legislators] are not the elite, they are the elect, and they can be unelected and recalled.”
The gun bills have prompted a backlash in the form of a lawsuit filed by 55 of the state’s 62 county sheriffs, two recall drives aimed at Democratic state Sens. Angela Giron and John Morse, and a petition drive for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit laws restricting magazine capacity.
“We need your enthusiasm not just now, but we’ll need your enthusiasm for the next election, we’ll need your enthusiasm for the recall of John Morse, and we’ll need your support for the recall of Angela Giron,” said KOA-AM talk-show host Michael D. Brown, Homeland Security undersecretary under President George W. Bush.
The loudest boos at Saturday’s festival, which featured music, beer and barbecue in addition to a slate of crowd-rousing speakers, were reserved for Mr. Hickenlooper, who faces re-election in 2014.
“Did he take your call? You know whose call he took? He took a call from the mayor of New York City,” said Republican state Sen. Greg Brophy. “I guarantee you Gov. Hickenlooper will listen to that when you bounce him out of office and bring freedom back to Colorado.”
Several Colorado Republicans have indicated they may run against Mr. Hickenlooper, a Democrat who also has come under fire for granting a reprieve of execution for quadruple-murderer Nathan Dunlap.
Democrats argued during the legislative session that the gun bills were needed to prevent mass shootings such as last year’s massacres in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. The Aurora shooting left 12 dead at a movie premier of “The Dark Knight Rises,” while 26 were killed in the Newtown elementary school, including 20 schoolchildren.
The other two bills expand the state’s background-checks law to encompass all private sales and transfers, including temporary transfers, and require gun owners to pay for their own background checks.
Critics have argued that the measures will do nothing to prevent mass shootings but will make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to purchase firearms and protect themselves.
Several county sheriffs have said it would be impossible to enforce some sections of the laws, such as figuring out which magazines of more than 15 rounds were purchased before July 1.
“When the legislators passed these laws, I think they fully expected us to lay down, roll over and surrender — well, let me tell you, that ain’t gonna happen,” said Weld County Sheriff John Cooke. “These laws are unconstitutional. These laws are unenforceable. These laws hinder our rights. They are knee-jerk reactions. So therefore, since they’re unenforceable, I will not enforce them.”