Revealing the disconnect between Colorado politicians and the law enforcement officers who are charged with making sure the state’s laws are followed, more than half of the sheriffs in the state are planning to file a lawsuit against recent gun control laws passed by Democratic lawmakers.
The lawsuit was announced by Weld County Sheriff John Cooke on Tuesday. Cooke has previously publicly said he will not be enforcing the new gun control laws because he believes they are unconstitutional.
While politicians may pass the laws, law-enforcement officials are the ones who have to deal with the real-world implications of putting the new laws into effect. Because of this, 37 of the state’s 62 sheriffs have announced their plans to file a lawsuit against the new laws, saying they are unconstitutional and unenforceable.
David Kopel, an attorney with the Independence Institute, which will be handling the case, said the brief is still being prepared but he expects to file it in the next few weeks.
“We are still working out the details, but there is a very solid case here. We are still working on some of the specifics, however we do feel we have a variety of strong legal claims that are worth bringing to court,” he said.
As part of the current legislative session, Democratic lawmakers, who hold the majority in both houses, rammed through a series of gun-control measures pushed by the Obama administration.
Among the measures are requirements for universal background checks for gun transfers and a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Additionally, residents now wishing to exercise their Second Amendment right must now pay a fee in order to exercise that right. The laws are among some of the toughest in the nation passed since the Sandy Hook massacre.
During the legislative process leading to the passage of the bills – all signed by Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper – the state’s sheriffs have been at the forefront of the opposition, drawing even a veiled threat from Democrats in the statehouse that a proposed raise for the law enforcement officers was at risk.
The sheriffs have frequently said the laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable. To minimize that message, Democrats allowed only one sheriff to testify on each bill as they came through the legislature.
State officials admitted they were doing the bidding of the White House. In February, Vice President Joe Biden flew into the state to strong-arm Democratic lawmakers who were feeling pressure from their constituents to vote against the bills.
“He (Biden) said it would send a strong message to the rest of the country that a western state had passed gun-control bills,” Tony Exhum, a Democratic lawmaker from Colorado Springs, told the Denver Post.
House Majority Leader Mark Ferrandino, an open homosexual who also pursued a “civil unions” agenda this year, admitted the gun-control bills introduced by fellow Democrats had national implications.
“I was shocked that he called. He said he thought the bills could help them on a national level,” Ferrandino said.
Following Hickenlooper’s signature, Barack Obama came to the state last week for what some have criticized as a “victory lap.”
While in the state, Obama said the federal government should follow Colorado’s example and pass similar gun control laws.
While the president used cadets at the Denver Police Academy as props during his speech, the sheriffs let the president know they were not happy with the passage of his proposals. Illustrating the problem with the transfer ban, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa handed an ammunition magazine to another sheriff and noted during a news conference that this act would soon be illegal when the law takes effect on July 1.
The legislation banning some magazines does not simply ban the sale of large capacity magazines, it also bans their transfer, meaning the simple act of handing the magazine to a spouse or friend to borrow or assist in clearing a jam would be a violation of the law.
Feeling that their concerns have been ignored and that the gun control measures have gone too far, the sheriffs are in the process of filing a lawsuit against the legislation.
Kopel said others are joining the sheriffs in the lawsuit, too.
Cooke has publicly gone on record as saying the laws are not only unconstitutional, but as written they are unenforceable and as such, he will not enforce them.
“Those who currently own magazines that hold over 10 rounds are grandfathered in,” Cooke said. “However, if a resident goes to another state and buys an illegal magazine after the law takes effect, we have no way of way of knowing when he purchased it unless he admits it to us. Remember, the burden of proof is on us to prove he broke the law, not for him to prove he didn’t.”
Regarding the background checks, Cooke said that is easily worked around by simply crossing the border to a neighboring state.
“All a person has to do legally is go across the border to Wyoming and conduct a private sale,” he explained. “There is no background check required up there and again, there is no way for us to prove where the sale took place. How will we know if the sale or transfer occurred illegally or not?”
The Colorado gun battle also created a number of opportunities for Democrat gaffes. One was when U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette praised the magazine restriction for soon reducing the weaponry that would be available in America.
“I will tell you these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available,” she said.
The Denver Post said DeGette “didn’t appear to understand” that a firearm magazine “can be reloaded with more bullets.”
Another memorable comment came from state Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, who scolded a witness who was opposing one of the gun limits.
Amanda Collins, 27, of Reno, Nev., was telling her story about being assaulted and explained that had she been carrying a concealed weapon, the incident might have ended differently.
“I just want to say that, actually statistics are not on your side even if you had a gun,” Hudak scolded. “And, chances are that if you would have had a gun, then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you.”
Hudak continued, speaking over the committee witness, “The Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence says that every one woman who used a handgun in self-defense, 83 here are killed by them.”
Finally able to resume her testimony, Collins said, “Senator, you weren’t there. I know without a doubt [the outcome would have been different with a gun].
“He already had a weapon,” she told the meeting of the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. “He didn’t need mine.”
Then there was the comment from state Rep. Joe Salazar.
He said that a woman who feels threatened by rape on a college campus doesn’t need to be armed because she can use a call box to get help.
Salazar’s statement came in a debate over a proposal to ban citizens possessing a concealed-carry permit from being armed on university campuses.
“It’s why we have call boxes,” said Salazar, “it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at.
“And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around, or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody.”