Ceasefire investigation finds high-capacity magazines still openly for sale despite Colorado ban

December 21, 2023, 9:39 am

In a span of seconds, Michael Anderson went from serving a longtime patron a rum and coke at the Club Q in Colorado Springs last year to lying down in a sea of broken glass by a bleeding friend and begging him to keep breathing.

Anderson knew soon enough, however, that his friend and boss Derrick Rump was not going to survive the brutal attack at Club Q on Nov. 19, 2022. “I saw someone lying on the ground in a pile of glass that was once a door,” Anderson said via email. “It was Derrick. My manager, my friend. I got down on the ground with him and tried to talk to him.”

“…But I quickly realized his injuries were severe and I just had this sinking feeling in my gut that he was not going to survive,” Anderson said. “I looked at his face, in his eyes, and told him I was so, so sorry. This never should have happened.”

Rump was among five killed at Club Q the night of the attack. The others were Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Vance.

All were mowed down by Anderson Lee Aldrich, who used an AR-15 style rifle that was fed ammunition by large capacity magazines that are banned under Colorado law.

Aldrich was later sentenced to five consecutive life sentences in June for the Club Q massacre. He was also sentenced to 2,208 years in prison for attempted murder.

Anderson, a longtime bartender at the club, said the Club Q attack could have been stunted, or maybe even prevented, if Aldrich had not had access to the assault weapon and its capabilities. “Large capacity magazines are designed for one purpose: to fire off as many shots as possible at human beings before needing to reload,” Anderson said.

“Had he not had such large capacity magazines, things would have gone significantly differently. He would have needed to reload much more frequently, providing more time for victims to escape or fight back much faster.”

“It’s time to ban large capacity magazines and assault weapons in this country,” Anderson said.

But a year after the Club Q shooting, almost half of the gun shops in Colorado Springs recently visited by members of Colorado Ceasefire sell high capacity magazines, violating a state law that prohibits sales of large round magazines. The devices have been linked to at least 27 mass shooting deaths in the state.

Colorado Ceasefire members found that at least 15 of the 32 gun shops they visited between Sept. 1 and October 7, sold the large capacity magazines, despite the Colorado Supreme Court upholding the magazine ban in 2020.

The ban, enacted in 2013, prohibits Colorado residents from owning or possessing any detachable magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds of ammunition, with several exceptions, none of which Aldrich met.

Those found violating the law face up to 120 days in jail and/or up to $750 in fines.

Ceasefire members found that some shops had high-capacity magazines on clear display while one had the magazines in a locked case, another in a box on the floor. One store owner told the visitors that the El Paso County Sheriff does not enforce the magazine ban.

Former El Paso Sheriff Bill Elder, whose term ended in January 2023, sided with about half of Colorado’s 64 sheriffs in June 2019 decrying the state’s large magazine ban.

In a legal brief, the sheriffs argued that civilians should have access to larger magazines carried by police to protect themselves and others, according to the Gazette newspaper.

Joe Roybal, who succeeded Elder as El Paso County Sheriff, has indicated he had concerns about Colorado’s “red flag” laws that limit gun ownership under certain conditions.

Colorado Ceasefire has asked to interview Roybal about his stance on enforcing existing gun laws but has not heard back from him.

This March, after a hearing at the state capitol, ColoradoCeasefire Legislative Action president and co-founder Eileen McCarron asked Roybal whether his office was investigating exactly where the Club Q shooter obtained his 60-round magazines.

“Roybal responded that he knew there were no gun dealers in the county selling large capacity magazines,” McCarron said.

In 1994, Congress banned large capacity magazines as well as semi-automatic assault weapons. But the law expired in 2004, leaving individual states to pass their own laws dealing with magazines and assault weapons, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Colorado is among 14 states – along with the District of Columbia – that now carry some laws aimed at blocking high capacity magazines, according to the Giffords Law Center. A Giffords Law Center spokeswoman has not returned a request for information on the effectiveness of local law agencies in those 14 states and the District of Columbia in enforcing the ban.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser this month declined to comment on local sheriffs opting not to enforce the large capacity magazine ban “due to ongoing legal matters related to the LCM limitation law,” said Weiser’s spokesman Lawrence Pacheco.

Weiser in October joined a coalition of 18 other attorneys general in supporting the District of Columbia’s efforts to limit the capacity of firearms magazines within its borders, according to an attorney general’s office news release.

“We have a duty to protect our communities from tragic gun violence. Each mass shooting is different, but a common denominator in each incident is that the shooter used a large-capacity magazine.

“As experience has shown, large-capacity magazine limitation laws decrease the deadly impacts of mass shootings by reducing the number of people who will be shot during a mass shooting incident–and save lives. It is critical that courts uphold these common-sense gun safety laws,” said Weiser.

Another victim of the Club Q shooting – John Arcediano – has filed an intent to sue the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office for damages related to the shooting. The legal filing claims that Club Q would not have happened had the sheriff enforced an “Extreme Protection Order” against Aldrich.

Colorado authorized the use of Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Jan. 1, 2020, which established rules to restrict access to firearms for people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

But In 2019, local officials declared El Paso County “a Second Amendment Sanctuary,” making it one of 37 Colorado counties, out of 64 counties, that passed resolutions saying they would not enforce the law.

On June 18, 2021, Aldrich was arrested and charged with two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping. The charges were later dropped because Aldrich’s family did not want to pursue a prosecution, the claim states.

Attorneys for Arcediano have not responded to a request for comment. Arcediano has not been reached for comment.

Ceasefire’s McCarron said that some Colorado Springs gun shop owners aren’t the law-abiding citizens they purport to be when they are flagrantly violating the law. One gun shop even had a sign posted noting that the magazines are illegal, but was selling them anyway, McCarron said.

“The large capacity magazine ban was enacted because people, including 20 children, died,” McCarron said. “People are still dying. In the Club Q and Boulder King Soopers massacres, 15 died.

“(Some) gun shop owners,” McCarron added, “feel above the law and law enforcement gives them no reason to feel differently.”

Colorado Ceasefire made the high capacity ban a top legislative priority in 2013, citing the use of the magazines in the Aurora Theater and Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacres.

Four nights after the July 20, 2012 Aurora massacre – in which 70 people were wounded or killed in just 90 seconds – Ceasefire convened gun violence prevention leaders to weigh potential legislation in response to the shooting. High on the list was a ban on large-capacity magazines.

Over the months of August to December of 2012, stakeholders convened by Ceasefire debated potential proposals. The stakeholders included representatives of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and the County Sheriffs of Colorado, legislative aides and advocates for mental health, domestic violence prevention, and gun violence prevention, as well as State Representatives Rhonda Fields and Beth McCann.

The Sandy Hook massacre, which occurred the morning of the last stakeholder meeting, further emphasized the urgent need for the ban. The Sandy Hook shooter employed 30-round magazines to kill twenty first-graders and six educators.

“Nearly every year since the magazine ban became law, gun rights activists have introduced bills to repeal the ban, and all have failed,” McCarron said.

Anderson said he was sure he was going to die that night at Club Q, which was quiet up until he heard the rapid fire of bullets. He said he looked up at the entrance to the club and saw the silhouette of a large man and an assault rifle in his hand.

He immediately dropped behind the bar and shards of glass were raining over him. “…Everything around me was being destroyed,” Anderson said. “Liquor bottles were exploding around me, the mini fridge and cooler behind the bar (were) being damaged with bullets.”

Anderson crawled from the bar to the patio and hid behind a booth with two others, he said. “I popped my head up…and that’s when I saw the shooter entering into the enclosed patio room and saw the barrel of his gun come through where a now-shattered glass door once stood.”

“I prepared mentally to die at that moment,” Anderson said. “I knew there was no chance I would survive.” The shooter’s gun fell silent and that prompted Anderson to move through the club where he found Rump and saw three men beating the gunman.

Police arrived at the scene and Anderson ran out the front door and into the parking lot where he FaceTimed his mother, who lives in Florida.

“I wish with every fiber of my being that no parent has to experience a phone call like that, helpless from 1,500 miles away,” Anderson said. “Every day I am grateful to have survived. “No one,” he said, “deserves to have to experience such horror.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on the website of Colorado Ceasefire — a gun-safety advocacy group.

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