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Many Circumventing Colorado High-Capacity Magazine Ban

DENVER (CBS4)- A CBS4 Investigation has found Coloradans are circumventing the state's controversial ban on high capacity gun magazines in numerous ways both basic and clever.

"I'm not surprised at all," said Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, after viewing the results of the CBS4 Investigation.

Cooke has been a vocal opponent of the 2013 law which bans gun magazines that hold more than 15 bullets.

"People are going to find a way around it," said Cooke.

He said four high capacity magazines, purchased by a CBS4 undercover producer in the last four months, were all usable.

Magazine Clips
(credit: CBS)

"All of them could be operable as 30 round magazines," said Cooke.

The ban on high capacity magazines passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper was a reaction to mass killings like the Aurora Theater shooting and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

"We make it too easy to mow other people down," said Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was killed in the Columbine High School mass shooting in 1999.

Mauser is a vocal opponent of high capacity magazines and pushed hard for passage of the 2013 ban.

"We have to do something to not make it easy to have people mowed down by crazed shooters. I thought it would be an effective law," said Mauser.

In Colorado Springs at Old Colorado City Surplus, an Army Surplus store, a CBS4 producer bought two brand-new high capacity magazine "kits."

The kits consist of the magazine hardware and a spring that needs to be inserted to make the unit operational.

The clerk opened the package, put it together in 24 seconds and sold CBS4 the 30 round magazine for $25.

"All you have to do is put it in and lock it in place, that's it," said the clerk.

The CBS4 producer asked if "It's kind of a workaround?"

"Yeah," responded the clerk.

He said he had been selling a lot of the high capacity magazine kits.

"They're selling really, really fast," he said. "You're good to go."

Cooke told CBS4 those same kits are also being sold at several retail stores in northern Colorado.

Gun Magazines
Gun magazines manufactured by Magpul in Colorado (credit: CBS)

At a northern Colorado gun show, a seller displayed an entire table full of 30 round magazines that had been "retrofitted" to hold 15 rounds and comply with the controversial law.

The seller was asked if anyone would care if a buyer removed the modification and turned the magazine back into a high capacity unit.

"No, but I gotta be careful about how I say things because they would love nothing more than to make me a poster child so I'm very careful on how I say things."

The CBS4 producer bought a 30 round magazine for $20.

Sheriff Cooke examined the magazine that was purchased for $20 and said it could be converted into a high capacity, 30 round magazine in a matter of seconds.

"Pop that rivet out and you've got a high capacity magazine," concluded Cooke.

Cooke said its clear many people are not complying with the spirit of the law.

The 2013 high capacity magazine ban was extremely controversial. It led to Magpul, a manufacturer of gun parts, abandoning Colorado and moving its operations to Texas.

Two Colorado lawmakers, Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron, were recalled based on their support of the high capacity magazine ban. And the ban became a source of friction between Hickenlooper and most Colorado sheriffs who vehemently opposed the law saying it was unenforceable.

And after all that, high capacity magazines were still relatively easy for an undercover CBS4 producer to purchase.

At a Douglas County gun store, a salesman said many stores sell 30 round magazines with minor modifications so they comply with the 15 round legal limit.

"It's supposed to be a permanent modification. What happens to that permanent modification after it leaves here? Sometimes they aren't as permanent as you would hope they may be."

Tom Mauser called what CBS4 uncovered "disgusting."

Mauser viewed the CBS4 footage and concluded, "People are trying to get around the law and in a way they're making a mockery of it. And what they are saying is, 'We don't care, let's make it easy, this is what customers want, let's make it available and defy the law.'"

CBS4 found that many Colorado retailers and gun stores are complying with the law and not selling anything that could be retrofitted or converted into a high capacity magazine.

Rep. Rhonda Fields, who sponsored Colorado's high capacity magazine ban, declined to be interviewed about what CBS4 had found, saying she was concerned it might impact the November 4 elections.

Mauser predicted the CBS4 Investigation would again get people discussing Colorado's gun laws and how to address the new cat and mouse game that has emerged with high capacity magazines.

Sheriff Cooke told CBS4 that since the passage of the law banning high capacity magazines, there has not been a single arrest in Colorado of anyone suspected of violating the law.

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