Sheriffs representing 54 of the state’s 64 counties joined the suit, in federal court; it charges that the legislation, signed into law by Hickenlooper and drafted in response to a series of gun massacres in Colorado and elsewhere, is an unconstitutional restriction of Second Amendment rights.
Most of the 54 participating sheriffs represent rural counties where there are strong feelings about gun rights.
That would certainly be the case in Montrose County, where last week the Board of County Commissioners, and Sheriff Rick Dunlap, received ringing support for Dunlap’s action.
“Kudos to our own sheriff for entering in this current lawsuit and standing up for our constitutional gun rights,” said local Tea Party member Elaine Pigford, whose comment drew a round of applause from nearly everyone in the room, including the commissioners.
Dunlap thanked Pigford for her “kind words” and added, “I want everyone to know, I didn’t enter this lawsuit because of any ill will toward the governor or the legislators. I entered the lawsuit because I think it’s the right thing to do to protect citizens and try to get some sense into the decisions that are being made.”
He went on to say, “It is not all about the guns, but it is about our constitutional rights that are guaranteed to us.” And, he added, “We are being represented pro bono from the Independence Institute,” the conservative Colorado think-tank.
Ouray Sheriff Dominic “Junior” Mattivi has also decided to join the lawsuit.
“The reason I got involved in it,” Mattivi told The Watch, “is because I am a firm believer of Second Amendment rights. I feel that what they are doing has pretty much violated our rights. When they take one right away, what’s next? Freedom of speech?
“I hope we can get back to normalcy,” Mattivi continued. “We keep hearing that guns are evil and that they are killing people. It’s not just guns, it’s the people behind the guns. If they want to ban guns, let’s ban high-capacity SUVs. There were more hit-and-runs in Denver last year than I can remember. I think they are going about it the wrong way.”
Asked if he had any solutions to gun violence, Mattivi responded, “What would I do? I don’t know.”
Of the three, only San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters has declined to participate in the suit.
“I understand their feeling,” Masters told The Watch in a phone interview. “The laws as passed are pretty much unenforceable and will not have the effect of reducing gun violence.” But, he said, “I just don’t think that suing the state is a good idea, and I’m not going to get in the middle of that.”
Masters believes the country as a whole “is refusing to study the fundamental issue of violence in America. We’re ignoring the problems of society.
“We as sheriffs should manage our political clout to influence legislation and elections. Get people unelected.” Not get involved in legal challenges.
As for the constitutionality of Colorado’s new laws, Masters said, “Sheriffs don’t make those decisions. The Supreme Court makes that decision.”
He did say he believes the Second Amendment was intended to say, “You can overthrow a tyrant, that an armed population is a free population.” But, he continued, the framers could only imagine a populace armed with weapons comparable to those of the government. “Not tactical nuclear weapons!” he said. “In modern-day times, that’s ludicrous. There have to be reasonable constraints.” Whether those limits should be 15 rounds per magazine, or 16, or three, Masters said, is beside the point.
Statewide, the greater law enforcement community is divided on the new regulations. The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, which includes urban departments, supports the state’s laws, by way of contrast, with the chiefs pronouncing its measures “common-sense approaches” taken to protect the public, “while not taking guns from law-abiding citizens in any way.”
According to the Associated Press, sheriffs’ attorneys are considering whether to ask the court for a preliminary injunction, which would block the Colorado laws while the lawsuit moves forward.