New Gun Laws Spark Debates Nationwide

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DENVER -- In light of the deadly Sandy Hook massacre, tough new guns laws are popping up across the country.

In New York, certain firearms have been reclassified as "assault weapons" and the owners must register them.

The law also limits the number of bullets in magazines to seven. The state of Connecticut recently added more than 100 assault weapons to its list of banned firearms, and magazines are restricted to ten rounds.

Citizens in the state can keep larger capacity magazines in their homes and use them at the shooting range. Owners of those magazines or the now banned weapons have until Jan. 1 to register them.

 Failed Senate Measure

On the national level, Senate Democrats failed in their bid to pass new gun control measures.

The bipartisan proposal would have created tighter background checks, banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

After the measure's defeat, the Obama administration said it will now take steps on its own without Congress.

Perhaps the biggest surprise happened out west in Colorado where ammo magazines will be limited to 15 bullets and expanded background checks begin July 1.

The move comes nearly a year after a deadly mass shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

A National Debate

The new restrictions in Colorado have sparked intense debate even among some law enforcement officials who claim the new rules violate the constitution.

They have vowed not to enforce the new laws.

"As sheriff I was elected to set the priorities for my agency and that's not it," Weld County Sheriff John Cooke told CBN News. "Turning law abiding citizens into criminals is not my priority."

Cooke joins more than half of Colorado's 62 sheriffs who have filed a lawsuit against the state over the new rules. He believes the laws would make it harder for people who want guns for legal purposes to get them.

About a dozen sheriffs spoke against the new laws during President Obama's recent visit to the state in an effort to push his administration's gun proposals.

"We're filing it [lawsuit] in federal court under the Second and 14th amendment that if you outlaw magazines, you're outlawing the gun basically and the Supreme Court has already said you can't outlaw the guns," Cooke told CBN News.

"And so we feel it's an infringement on our rights as law enforcement officers and for the citizens that we protect. So we believe that it's unconstitutional," he said.

False Security?

Cooke also argues that the new rules are nothing more than a false sense of security.

"They're trying to make everybody feel good," he said. "These are feel good, knee jerk reaction laws and politicians what they do is they say well we had a tragedy what we need to do something."

"I think they give people that are naïve a false sense of security that, 'Oh, now we're safer,' when actually we're not," he explained.

Mel Bernstein is the owner of Dragon Arms gun shop in Colorado Springs. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold once visited the gun store before killing 13 in the Columbine High School shooting.

"The kids were here 30 days before they shot up the school," Bernstein told CBN News. 

"They wanted to buy an MP5 and an M60 machine gun," he went on to say.

Anyone wanting to purchase a long gun in Colorado must be 18 and must be 21 years of age to buy a handgun. Because Harris and Klebold were underage at that time, an 18-year-old female friend of the pair agreed to purchase the weapons for them.

The M60 is a fully automatic machine gun and requires a 90-day waiting period. But because the boys wanted the weapons sooner, they declined to purchase from Bernstein.

There is no waiting period for shotguns, semi-automatic rifles or handguns in Colorado.

The girl ultimately purchased a rifle for them elsewhere, which is considered an illegal straw purchase.

Bernstein argues that stricter gun laws won't stop criminals from getting guns illegally.

"No matter what laws they make the criminals are always going to get a gun," he said. "There's millions of millions of guns out there."

Cook agrees. He pointed to the case of Tom Clements, the 58-year-old state prison official who was gunned down at his home in March.

Evan Spencer Ebel, a man recently paroled in Colorado and killed in a gunfight with Texas authorities, is suspected in Clements' death.

"The murderer had a long criminal history and was in prison for many years," Cooke said.

"A woman bought that gun to give to him, so he didn't go and get the background check. He had a friend do it who could pass one," Cooke explained.

Mixed Reaction

People who live in Colorado are mixed on the gun control debate.

Denver resident Jerome Carter agrees there are some good gun measures the state is trying to put in place.

But he added, "With the widespread use and ownership of guns across America I'm not sure that the current measures go far enough."

Dr. Christy Chaudrey commented that lawmakers need to look at all angels of the issue.

"I'm not sure that it makes a big difference," she explained. "I'm a physician, you can really do a lot of damage with 15 bullets."

"I'm a fan of mental health," she said.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Cooke isn't backing down and he's getting support from all across the country.

"My philosophy has always been an armed society is a polite society and so we don't need to make it more restrictive," he said.

"We need to loosen up the laws because we already have thousands of laws on the books about/with gun control and so this is the wrong direction."

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.