DENVER (AP) – A Colorado sheriffs’ group was handed a legal defeat Tuesday in their challenge to state gun restrictions enacted in response to 2012 mass shootings, but two sheriffs said the ruling provided a road map to try again alongside gun-rights groups.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that a lower federal court improperly heard the sheriffs’ challenge to 2013 laws limiting the size of ammunition magazines and expanding background checks on firearms purchases.

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That court found the laws didn’t infringe on individuals’ right to bear arms. But the appeals court ruled Tuesday that the sheriffs and other plaintiffs had no legal standing to bring the case in the first place – and because of that, the lower court shouldn’t have heard it. The circuit court ordered the lower court to vacate its 2014 decision.

It did not comment on the merits of the challenge to the gun laws.

Colorado lawmakers passed the restrictions after the 2012 Aurora movie theater shootings that killed 12 people and injured 70, and the massacre months later at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The appeals court said the sheriffs failed to show they faced a credible threat of prosecution for violating the laws and thus had no standing.

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David Kopel, the sheriffs’ legal counsel and research director for the nonprofit Independence Institute, called Tuesday’s ruling a victory because it removed the only federal court decision upholding the laws from the books.

He said he would huddle with sheriffs and lawyers for other plaintiffs to figure out how to mount another legal challenge.

Both Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith and Adams County Sheriff Michael McIntosh vowed another challenge, saying the laws are practically unenforceable.

In the 2014 decision, U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger said that limiting magazine sizes didn’t impede individuals’ ability to protect themselves, and that the expansion of background checks to include firearms sold online and between private parties “is no more severe” than requirements already in place for commercial sales.


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