Colorado Supreme Court Retains Ban on Assault Weapons

A divided Colorado Supreme Court on Monday upheld Denver's ban on assault weapons, despite arguments that state weapons laws should trump city ordinances.

The 3-3 vote, with one justice abstaining, ended a high-profile fight between Colorado's largest city and state officials over two state laws enacted in 2003 that pre-empted local regulation of firearms in favor of uniform state regulation.

The city sued the state, claiming the laws violated its rights to regulate matters of local concern.

Denver District Judge Joseph Meyer III ruled in 2004 that the city had to conform to some parts of the state laws, but he said the city could bar the sale of assault weapons and so-called Saturday night specials despite state laws prohibiting local governments from banning weapons that are otherwise legal under state and federal law.

Both the city and the state appealed Meyer's ruling.

The Supreme Court said that because of its tie vote, the lower court's ruling stands. It gave no legal opinion or analysis of the issues.

Attorneys for the city and the state did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The two state laws were enacted in response to what supporters said was a confusing patchwork of ordinances around Colorado.

One law set up uniform statewide criteria for issuing concealed-carry permits. The other generally permits openly carrying firearms, but also gave local governments the ability to prohibit openly carrying firearms in buildings or other areas when notices are posted at public entrances. It also prohibits local governments from maintaining lists of people who buy or sell firearms.